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Gov. DeSantis: It's 'fundamentally unfair' for federal government to penalize Florida

The governor criticized the federal government's response Wednesday at a new vaccination pop-up site in Zephyrhills.
Credit: AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, center, gestures as he speaks during a news conference, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, at a Navarro Discount Pharmacy in Hialeah, Fla.

ZEPHYRHILLS, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis held a news conference Wednesday morning at the SunTrust Bank Building in Zephyrhills.

The building is being used as a COVID-19 vaccination site that DeSantis said will administer 3,300 shots to Pasco County seniors over the next three days.

The governor announced that beginning Thursday, people in Pasco County can register at Walgreens for appointments starting Friday. 

This is part of the Federal Retail Pharmacy program that is helping to bring vaccines to communities along with stores like Publix, Walmart, and Winn-Dixie. Gov. DeSantis said that it's becoming easier to book appointments at these stores as more people throughout the state have gotten vaccinated. 

While DeSantis said that several counties like Sarasota and Pinellas are approaching 50 percent of seniors vaccinated, other counties like Pasco are falling below that mark. In those counties, the governor said he is working to bring more vaccines to get those numbers up. 

The governor mentioned the four FEMA vaccination sites, including one in the Tampa Bay area, will help with this effort. These federally-run sites are set to offer 3,000 vaccines a day starting Wednesday. 

DeSantis then said that Florida is scheduled to receive 175,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. While he's still not sure when they will arrive, the governor hopes the single-dose vaccines will get there by the end of the week. 

When the Johnson & Johnson shots are available, the governor says the state will create pods to administer the vaccines in partnership with sheriff's offices, police departments, and school districts starting in counties like Pinellas, Lee, and Pasco. 

Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco thanked DeSantis for his leadership throughout the pandemic and mentioned the governor's efforts to address mental health issues related to COVID-19. 

Gov. DeSantis then said that these mental health issues are even worse in states with stricter lockdown guidelines where "you don't give people the freedom to be able to live their lives."

"You can't treat people that way and think that there's not going to be major problems," the governor said.

DeSantis said that it was "fundamentally unfair" for the federal government to be giving more money to states that have done a "poor job" in their coronavirus response instead of states like Florida "that have done a better job." 

"If you're going to send money to states, you send it on a population basis. And if anything, we should get more because we have more senior citizens than almost anybody else," DeSantis said.

When asked about expanding vaccine eligibility to more groups of people, DeSantis said he thinks the Johnson & Johnson vaccine alone will be enough to take care of law enforcement officers, first responders, and K-12 employees who are age 50 and up.

The governor added that he was open to including daycare workers in the groups eligible to receive the vaccine.

"I'm supportive of that. We may have to change the order, but I think that would be totally reasonable to include them," DeSantis said. 

You can watch the full news conference here:

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