Saturday, January 2, 2021
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The Villages

Let’s all take a deep breath as we navigate the COVID-19 vaccine debacle

Villagers and other area residents are desperate to get COVID-19 vaccinations – but after several days of angst over attempting to get the inoculations, it’s time to take a deep breath and show some patience.

Frustration was at the top of the list for many Villagers when Sumter County announced that it had received just 2,500 doses of the Moderna vaccine – far from enough to take care of its more than 130,000 residents. The health department will begin taking calls to make appointments on Monday, Jan. 4, which means jammed phone lines and busy signals are in the future for many of us.

The Department of Health in Lake County shut down its COVID-19 vaccination station at Lake-Sumter College early on Friday after running out of doses, according to law enforcement officials at the clinic.

Meanwhile, similar frustrations have been building in Lake County, which held a vaccination clinic at Lake-Sumter College on Friday and promptly ran out of vaccines. That health department at first announced that it was taking appointments for the doses, then switched to a first come, first serve basis. They ran out of vaccines before noon and were forced to turn away many residents seeking the highly sought-after doses.

To complicate matters, there were issues with getting someone on the phone, failure to reply to messages and emails and at least one accusation of treating people “like cattle.”

In Marion County, more than 40,000 residents have signed up for vaccines and staff members spent New Year’s Day calling residents to set up appointments. But there’s been plenty of frustrations, like with one Villages couple who was instructed to “stay by the phone” and then waited for days with no call back.

Villager Steve Printz, left, receives the COVID-19 vaccine Dec. 22 as Villager Peter Moeller, right, awaits his turn.

As we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic is a crisis like none of us has never faced. Unfortunately, there’s no blueprint for how to handle such a tragedy and then get Florida’s 22 million residents vaccinated in the correct order based on who needs the doses the most.

The second unfortunate thing in this entire mess is that Gov. Ron DeSantis has proven completely inept at handling the pandemic. He’s refused to mandate masks even though it’s been proven that they help cut down on the spread of the virus. He’s charged ahead with reopening the state while cases continued to rise. And despite the fact that the number of cumulative cases in Florida have surpassed 1.3 million and New Year’s Eve saw the biggest increase – 17,192 – since the pandemic hit the state in the spring, he continues to tout his administration’s so-called “accomplishments” in battling the virus.

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on June 3 at Universal Orlando Resort that 64 of Florida’s 67 counties would move into Phase Two of reopening amid the COVID-19 pandemic. That reopening plan included Sumter, Lake and Marion counties.

For the record, when DeSantis announced Phase Two of his reopening plan for Florida on June 3, there were 58,764 COVID-19 cases, 2,566 deaths and 10,525 people had been hospitalized. On Dec. 31, the state was reporting 1,323,315 cases, 21,990 deaths and 62,868 people had been hospitalized. That translates to a 2,151.9 percent increase in cases, a 756.8 percent increase in deaths and a 497.3 percent increase in people who have required hospital care.

While you take a moment to consider those numbers and fully understand just how much of a lousy job DeSantis has done in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, also consider this – he had no problem blowing into The Villages on Dec. 22 and making a big spectacle out of promising vaccines for seniors across the state. He also vowed to make sure seniors receive vaccines before some essential workers based on age – a plan that we don’t fully understand since those workers are likely to be exposed to the virus much more often than seniors who can practice social distancing and easily avoid others who could be infected with the Coronavirus.

Gov. Ron DeSantis watches Villager Doug Tharp get a COVID-19 vaccine during a press conference at UF Health The Villages Hospital on Dec. 22. Tharp is a former Villages Homeowners Association president who currently serves on the Village Center Community Development District Board of Supervisors.

To make matters worse, DeSantis made that promise to get seniors vaccinated with no real plan in place. It’s very easy to roar into The Villages, make bold statements about vaccines and then leave with no set plan in place. It’s calling lining up votes for the future and it’s something we find appalling and completely irresponsible on the governor’s part. But from what we’ve seen from him so far during this crisis, we’re not surprised.

Which brings us to this – if you want to be upset with someone in this COVID-19 vaccination nightmare, direct your frustration toward DeSantis and company. His administration ultimately is responsible for delivering vaccinations to Florida’s 67 counties and when they’re so limited, it’s unacceptable to make people think they’re going to be easy to attain.

Republican Party leader Rich Cole gets a COVID-19 vaccine during Gov. Ron DeSantis’ press conference in The Villages on Dec. 22. Cole also serves as head of The Villages Amputee Support group.

Which brings us to a second point – please don’t take your frustrations out on the health department staff members who take your calls or the frontline healthcare workers, firefighters and law enforcement officers who are involved in getting those vaccines out to the public. It’s not their fault when they get inundated with phone calls from those seeking vaccines. And it’s certainly not their fault when the clinics they are manning quickly run out of the allotment of limited doses provided by the state.

Please remember, they’re doing the best they can in an unprecedented situation. They’re literally putting their lives on the line to administer those vaccines, even though many of them probably haven’t yet received their own shots. And they’re doing it with the utmost professionalism despite the fact that many area residents have taken their frustrations out on them over long lines and the lack of doses.

As we said earlier, everyone needs to take a deep breath and show patience as we navigate these uncharted waters. We’re all in this together and we need to watch out for each other throughout this nightmare none of us ever thought we’d face.

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