Gov. Ron DeSantis stopped in The Villages on Monday to promise the reopening of a controversial makeshift drive-through COVID-19 vaccination site near the Buffalo Ridge Plaza off Wedgewood Lane.
The governor touted the site’s success but he failed to mention that the overseer of the effort, Global Medical Response, quietly packed up the site less than a week after his Jan. 12 visit and left town with sensitive information gathered from area residents. Instead, he vowed that the site would start administering vaccines again Thursday.
DeSantis said the site will be able to reopen because Florida is receiving an additional 40,000 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine this week. He said 4,000 of those will go the makeshift site, which he said will become a permanent location for doses in Sumter County in addition to the one at the Wildwood Community Center.
“I said, ‘Look, the places that are doing well, that are showing that they can use these doses, as we get more vaccine delivered, we’re going to make sure that we send more vaccine into those communities,’” he said during a Monday morning press conference. “We’re going to feed 4,000 doses, initial doses, to that site on a permanent basis as long as our supply remains what it is.”
DeSantis also said that if the state receives more than the 307,000 total doses that are expected to be delivered this week, the site in The Villages could possibly get more doses – because of the way it was run.
“I spoke with a number of the seniors and they were very happy with how it went,” he said. “So when you know that something works, you want to continue to see that go.”
The governor, who also created controversy here in December when he staged a press conference that saw five GOP-supporting Villagers with close ties to the Developer receive the vaccine, encouraged residents to schedule appointments for doses online at sumterfl.saferstart.net. As of Monday night, sumterfl.saferestart.net – appeared to be up and running.
DeSantis closed out his press conference by praising the rapid growth in the mega-retirement community and vowed to return and help seniors celebrate once the vaccination efforts are completed.
“When everyone gets vaccinated, I know the partying, the events you used to do, can resume full throttle,” he said. “We’re looking forward to that and I will come back and help you guys ring that in.”
Villagers last month became extremely frustrated with the makeshift drive-through vaccination clinic after Global Medical Response asked for Social Security numbers and sensitive medical information during the signup process. That frustration continued when 7,500 appointments were suddenly canceled due to a failed shipment of the vaccine. And it boiled over when the makeshift clinic packed up and left the site with no explanations, including a refusal from the company’s public relations representative to address the issue.