ORLANDO, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis signed off on four bills Thursday to prohibit mandated COVID-19 vaccinations for Florida students and workers, calling HB 1B the “strongest piece of legislation” enacted against such mandates anywhere in the U.S.
The bills were sent to DeSantis after a three-day special legislative session that the governor assembled to combat federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates and to strengthen the “Parents’ Bill of Rights,” banning coronavirus-related mask mandates in Florida school districts. Other provisions in the new laws include fines of up to $50,000 per violation for employers who don’t follow them, and a public records exemption that protects the information of those who file virus-related complaints against their employers.
With the bills signed into law, Orange County Public Schools updated its mask policy to be fully optional for students, staff and guests upon their return from Thanksgiving break on Nov. 29. In a statement, the district said that its COVID-19 vaccination events would still continue.
The Disney Cruise Line said it will change its COVID-19 rules soon, requiring all passengers 5 years old or older to be vaccinated in order to board its ships starting Jan. 13, 2022. Until then, passengers younger than 12 are allowed to board if they can return a negative COVID-19 test one to three days prior to their cruise, but Disney will no longer allow age exceptions after Jan. 13.
On the contrary, Orange County’s COVID-19 rules are being rolled back. When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reduced the transmission risk in Orange County from substantial to moderate, Mayor Jerry Demings said Monday that county employees no longer had to wear masks at work. The two-week rolling positivity rate in Orange County was 2.5% Monday, and 75% of the population 12 and older is fully vaccinated.
COVID-19 booster shots from Pfizer and Moderna for all adults in the U.S. received approval from the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Friday following months of only being offered to select groups deemed more at risk of serious illness than others.
Pfizer asked the FDA for emergency use authorization of its experimental COVID-19 treatment pill, shown to slash virus-related hospitalizations and deaths by 89% among high-risk adults showing early coronavirus symptoms. Another COVID-19 treatment pill from fellow pharmaceutical company Merck is already under FDA review, and the U.S. has pledged to spend more than $2 billion for about 3.1 million courses, valued at around $700 per course. Pfizer’s COVID-19 treatment pill will run for around $529 per round, and the U.S. intends to purchase 10 million treatment courses for $5.29 billion if authorization is granted.
Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine was approved in smaller doses for children aged 5 to 11 earlier this month, and the White House said that around 10% of eligible children have received at least one shot so far, about 1.7 million vaccines.
“You’re the real heroes,” Biden told newly vaccinated kids Thursday. “You have your superpower and now you’re protected against COVID.”
Below is a breakdown of Florida COVID-19 data reported by the state on Nov. 19.
The Florida Department of Health reported 10,828 new cases on Friday that occurred during the past week, bringing the state’s overall total to 3,677,968 cases since the virus was first detected on March 1, 2020. That is an average of 1,547 new infections reported per day.
Even though the Florida DOH released numbers once a week, the state is still reporting daily infections to the CDC. Below is the CDC daily number, which is 24 hours behind.
Florida reported 37 new virus-related deaths Friday from the past week but the cumulative death toll of 61,081 actually shows there have been 384 new deaths added to the state total. The state has not provided any information as to when these deaths occurred.
The state stopped reporting the number of non-residents who died in Florida with its new weekly reporting method.
The state Agency for Health Care Administration deleted its current COVID-19 hospitalization database and the state is no longer reporting how many patients have been hospitalized with the virus. However, Florida is still required to report that information to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the CDC continues to release that information online. The most recent hospital numbers show 1,079 adult and 14 pediatric patients in Florida.
The DOH reported the percent of positive results from coronavirus tests was 2.5% but did not provide how many people were tested during the past week. Health officials say the rate should remain between 5% and 10% to prove a community has a hold of the virus and is curbing infections.
The Florida Department of Health began releasing a daily report in December 2020 on COVID-19 vaccines administered throughout the state. In the new weekly reports, the state is combining the vaccination data with the COVID-19 infection numbers.
FDOH reports 14,180,980 people are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. These individuals either received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine or completed a two-shot series.
During the past week, 109,494 new people have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
Central Florida region
The state is no longer providing a breakdown of county-by-county deaths or hospitalizations as of June 3. The Florida DOH is also no longer providing county numbers for non-residents who have tested positive, causing the total case numbers to drop significantly, in some counties by more than 1,000 cases.
For example, with non-resident positive cases as of June 3, Orange County had reported a total of 143,198 but with the state’s new reporting method, the county has 141,941 total cases, a difference of 1,257 positive cases.
Below is the Central Florida region breakdown of new cases and new vaccination numbers between Nov. 12 - Nov. 18, 2021.
|County||Total cases as of Nov. 18||New cases since Nov. 12||Total people vaccinated||Percent of 5+ population vaccinated|