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What will a new president mean for Florida's COVID-19 fight?

'We’re going to be in fine shape,' DEM Director Jared Moskowitz says
Posted at 6:26 PM, Jan 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-20 18:26:29-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — What will the nation's new leader mean for Florida's fight against COVID-19?

President Joe Biden has promised to vaccinate 100 million people in his first 100 days. While some have cheered the goal, others are worried about what comes next.

The new commander-in-chief takes office as Florida continues its battle against the deadly pandemic. The state's 4.3 million seniors are desperate to vaccinate against it.

"We're going to be in fine shape," said Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz.

Moskowitz is helping oversee Florida's vaccine distribution. He told us recently to expect a smooth transition. The former state lawmaker was certain Biden wouldn't play favorites as dose distribution becomes a major challenge nationwide.

"I don't think he's going to use the vaccine to, you know, reward friends and punish enemies," Moskowitz said. "That's not going to happen. We've had that for four years, quite frankly."

For weeks Florida has struggled with limited vaccine supply and a lack of transparency from the federal government. State officials have reported only getting six-day notice on weekly shipments, with dose totals hovering around 250,000. At that rate, it could take nearly two years to vaccinate the state's more than 20 million residents.

Mary Jo Trepika
Epidemiologist Mary Jo Trepka believes the U.S. has the resources to deliver a mass vaccination plan.

Biden has pledged more openness and supply, which Florida International Epidemiologist Mary Jo Trepka believed was critical. The professor was hopeful the president would deliver, saying America has the power. It just needs the will.

"We are a wealthy country with lots of resources, financial, technical, intellectual," Trepka said. "There's no reason we can't do a massive vaccination campaign and do it well."

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a close ally of former President Donald Trump, has made public concerns about Biden's future pandemic plans. At a Tuesday news briefing in Cape Coral, the Republican said making radical changes in the middle of the vaccine rollout could be "potentially problematic."

Specifically, DeSantis said he was opposed to opening federal vaccine clinics, something the new president wants to use to boost distribution.

"How long is that going to take?" DeSantis said. "And then are you going to divert vaccine away from my efforts and the efforts here -- where we're doing 70,000 to 80,000 people a day?"

Jason Salemi
University of South Florida professor Jason Salemi says he hopes the Biden doesn't eliminate a Health and Human Services hospital capacity tracker created under the Trump administration.

Some pandemic researchers also worry the new administration will eliminate a Health and Human Services hospital capacity tracker, which Trump officials created. The CDC has since been trying to absorb the responsibility believing it could do better.

"No data set is perfect, but it's providing us with really reliable information," said Professor Jason Salemi, an epidemiologist at the University of South Florida.

Salemi said it took a while to get the government to publish the details, and he would hate to lose time waiting for a rebuilt alternative.

"Dismantling it and stating it from scratch at a time when we have got so many cases in the United States, we’ve got the vaccine under development," Salemi said. "We're trying to track so many things -- I just think would be a major setback," he said.

What comes next will be up to Biden, who has prepared a slew of policy changes for day one. Time will tell what happens next.

Global Coronavirus Tracker:

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Data from The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.