What is the Florida Department of Health Doing to Address COVID-19?
By Sam MacArthur

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It has been a scary year. Even after first being detected more than thirteen month ago, Florida COVID cases continue to run rampant in the Sunshine State. And those who may be returning to work or school may be wondering what to expect as they try to resume life. For those living in Florida, here is a guide on Florida COVID plans.

How is Florida Handing the Pandemic?

Florida took quick action with the pandemic, already having a system in place to keep track of testing and contact tracing as early as the mid-March of 2020. Beginning this type of data as early as it did was crucial in tracking the movement of the virus and seeing how it spread.

Throughout the rest of the year, the state continued to keep a close eye on the virus, reporting new COVID cases in Florida, Florida COVID deaths and spikes regularly. Reports like couny specific-information and vaccination plans were made publicly available as well. The state saw several spikes during the year, however the rate of Florida COVID deaths has slowly declined throughout the winter.

How Many Cases does Florida have as of January 2021?

As of mid-January, there are still thousands of Florida COVID cases. Latest data puts the exact number at just under 13,500 COVID cases in Florida. This puts the positivity rate of the state at 12.37%, a spike after the positivity rate had been below 12% for the majority of the month.

Several counties in northern, central and southern regions of the state are being hit especially hard – this includes densely populated and tourist areas such as Miami, Orlando, Tallahassee and Jacksonville, compared to eastern and western regions of the state.

How are College Campuses Handling Covid?

Colleges and universities across the state are having students wear face coverings while on-campus, regardess if they are indoors and outdoors. Singing at religious services taking place on campus have also been halted at many schools, and others are also operating at 25% venue capacity. Many schools also have email addresses designated especially for students with questions regarding COVID on campus and precautions the school is taking.

College campuses are also trying to remain transparents with their students by making information readily available. This means that many colleges are putting charts, updates and other data on their websites. In addition, some of these websites are also providing information on tests being performed on-campus, the positivity rate of students on campus, and testing protocols of those living on campus.

How are Businesses Handling Covid?

Businesses in Florida were encouraged to put protocols into place to prevent spread amongst workers and the general population. The Florida State Department of Health put out information for businsses, including how the virus spreads, disinfectants proven to kill the virus and the maximum size group Floridians are encouraged to have. Businesses were encouraged to take the advice, and businesses that provided any kind of personal care services had further rules placed on them. This included cleanings of tools and materials used, restricting group appointments and spacing appointments to allow for cleaning and disinfecting.

Vaccine Plan

As of January 2021, the Florida COVID vaccine schedule prioritizes giving vaccines to the most vulnerable and at-risk essential workers. This includes citizens over the age of sixty-five, first responders, and healthcare providers. Those who are at-risk of severe complications or are immunocompromised are also able to get their vaccine. That includes those suffering from obesity, lung diseases, heart conditions, kidney disease, and other conditions.

Those eligible to receive a vaccine must make an appointment beforehand as per the Florida COVID plans; clinics are not allowing walk-in visits, as per the Florida COVID policy. Many clinics also have temporarily stopped taking appointments due to the limited availablity of vaccine doses. As such, the vaccine is still very much available on a first-come, first-serve basis. The Department of Health is also still accepting and constantly reviewing applications from private practices to become distributors of the vaccine as the next steps of the Florida COVID vaccine schedule is carried out. This means that areas that may not have had many vaccine providers earlier in the year may be able to get a dose at a location closer to home, once more are available.

Certain people, such as those pregnant, breastfeeding or are immunocompromised, are encouraged to talk to their doctors before receiving the vaccine, and potentially get a letter of approval. Anyone under eighteen is also unable to receive the vaccine for the time being. The Florida COVID policy regarding vaccines is still in the early stages; it will be a long while before the state reaches herd immunity.

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