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Longboat Key Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021 10 months ago

Longboat Key mayor writes governor on COVID-19 vaccines

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The letter asks the governor to prioritize distributing the vaccine to the most vulnerable populations.
by: Mark Bergin Staff Writer

Longboat Key Mayor Ken Schneier wrote a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis on behalf of the town about the state’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution, urging greater consideration for older residents.

Schneier sent the letter to the governor’s office on Wednesday.

“The state’s mortality data related to COVID-19 shows the more elderly, have more serious illness, and higher death rate, as they age into their 70s, 80s and beyond,” Schneier wrote. “We urge you to allow the county FDOH officials to place a higher priority on vaccinating by age, instead of a random lottery selection, and other first-come, first-served registration systems being used.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, Florida Department of Health data shows of the state’s 24,578 COVID-19-related deaths, 20,422 of them are people aged 65 and older. Some 15,190 of those deaths are among people 75 and older.

About 69% of the town’s 6,700 full-time residents are older than 65 years old. The town’s population increases to about 25,000 during snowbird season.

State data indicates 177 cases on Longboat Key since the pandemic began. 

“Our demographic also makes up the oldest demographic by community, in Sarasota and Manatee counties combined,” Schneier wrote. “This demographic is considered as the most susceptible to severe illness and death from the COVID-19 virus.”

Schneier has also asked the governor’s office about expanding vaccination locations to the Publix at 525 Bay Isles Parkway. The mayor said many Longboat Key residents will have to drive as far as 20 miles to the closest vaccination site, which could also increase the likelihood of someone’s exposure to coronavirus. Manatee County has offered vaccines at Tom Bennett Park, adjacent to Interstate 75 in Bradenton. Sarasota County has performed vaccination at the county health department building in downtown Sarasota, and this week at Twin Lakes Park, east of Interstate 75 on State Road 72.  

Town Manager Tom Harmer confirmed the Publix in Longboat Key is “interested and willing” to distribute the vaccine.

The town has also proposed to set up a vaccination site at the Temple Beth Israel at 567 Bay Isles Road or at the CVS Pharmacy at 505 Bay Isles Parkway.

Harmer said Sarasota County is in the process of setting up another vaccination site in the south Venice or North Port area.

At-Large Commissioner BJ Bishop was critical of the location of Sarasota County’s vaccination sites.

“My one concern continues to be we have older people who should not be driving off the island, and I can’t think of two worse locations than east of [Interstate] 75 and south of Venice to direct our population to for these early shots,” Bishop said. “It just defies logic to me that those are the opportunities made available to our most vulnerable population.”

Initially, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended distributing the vaccines to people aged 75 and older. DeSantis decided Florida would distribute them to people 65 and older.

The governor’s decision prompted criticism from Longboat Key commissioners earlier this month. However, the CDC has since lowered its recommendation to 65.

“It is our express desire to have vaccines for our most vulnerable citizens,” Schneier wrote.

Schneier’s letter comes the same day Sarasota County launched a new registration process for COVID-19 vaccination appointments. The new process uses the Everbridge platform and allows residents to add their names to a waiting list for available appointment slots.

On Wednesday, DeSantis also announced only full-time and part-time residents of Florida are eligible to receive the vaccination through the state. The decision is expected to stop people traveling to Florida just to receive the vaccine.

Two weeks ago, DeSantis commended Manatee County's efforts to deliver COVID-19 vaccinations to seniors on a visit to Tom Bennett Park in Bradenton. Manatee County uses a preregistration pool process.

Longboat Key is planning to conduct is public meetings using a hybrid format through February. The town’s mandatory mask ordinance runs through March 31.

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Mark Bergin is the Longboat Key Town Hall reporter for the Observer. He has previously worked as a senior digital producer at WTSP, the CBS affiliate in St. Petersburg. Mark is a graduate of the University of Missouri and grew up in the Chicagoland area.

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