Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis breaks two-week silence to talk about vaccines

Floridians will have a choice whether they want to get vaccine or not, governor says

PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – On Thursday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) broke his two-week silence with a lengthy video tweet telling Floridians he’s working on COVID-19 and vaccines are on the way discussing “rays of hope on the horizon.”

“New vaccines soon bring the prospect of saving thousands of lives,” DeSantis posted in his tweet with a video message to accompanied it.

The video message released to social media is DeSantis’ first comments on Florida’s coronavirus response in weeks.

It’s good news for Florida and also for DeSantis who is under fire from a bi-partisan contingent of mayors in Florida cities that are asking him to issue a statewide mask mandate to control the surge of coronavirus cases in the state.

The governor has come under sharp criticism for his hard-line policies on COVID-19 refusing to re-impose restriction orders or order mask wearing.

The Florida governor said that the state of Florida was preparing to work with the federal government to distribute vaccines to the state’s hospitals in the upcoming weeks, as well as “new therapeutic treatments for those most vulnerable” and that he has met with officials involved in Operation Warp Speed in Washington to get key questions answered for Florida.

On Tuesday, ABC News obtained the most recent weekly White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing for governors, which stated emphatically that “Florida is in the midst of a viral resurgence and with aggressive action now, can contain this surge.”

The report said Florida was in the red zone for cases, indicating that there were 101 or more new cases per 100,000 population and had the 37th highest rate in the country. Three South Florida counties had the highest number of new cases over the last three weeks: Miami Dade, Broward and Palm Beach represented 36.7 percent of new cases in Florida, according to the report.

(See the report about Florida obtained by ABC News below.)

DeSantis’ COVID-19 address on Twitter stuck to a vaccine message, pointing out that the state’s goal was to make all safe and effective COVID vaccines available to Floridians who want them. “But the state will not mandate that Floridians take these vaccines. That is going to be the choice of each and every Floridian.”

It is still a way off before the general public would be able to receive a vaccine — conceivably it could be distributed by the spring or summer of 2021.

He said the vaccines represent the “greatest rays of hope that we have seen since the pandemic began. They offer the prospect of saving thousands and thousands of lives, and to potentially bring this pandemic to an end.”

A spokesperson for Jackson Health System in Miami confirmed to Local 10 Wednesday that the hospital system will be one of the first recipients to get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Additionally, Memorial Healthcare System in Hollywood also confirmed to Local 10 that it would be one of the first in the state to receive a coronavirus vaccine.

The vaccine, which has been reported by Pfizer as more than 90 percent effective, will be available to frontline healthcare workers, staff and residents at long-term care facilities, and first responders, before it makes its way to the public.

As far as the mayors’ request for DeSantis to institute a statewide mask mandate, that is highly unlikely. In September, the governor issued a directive to local officials that they could not enforcing mask mandates that had been put into place such as the one in Miami-Dade County.

At the White House on Thursday, praise from Dr. Deborah Birx for Miami’s mayors. “I want to thank the mayors of Miami city and Miami county. They were the ones in the summer that really found how much asymptomatic spread was occurring in household gatherings.”

On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued its harshest warning yet about the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. The nation’s top public health agency pleaded with Americans on Thursday not to travel for Thanksgiving and not to spend the holiday with people from outside their household.

About the Authors:

Michelle F. Solomon is the podcast producer/reporter/host of Local 10's original, true-crime podcast The Florida Files and a digital journalist for Local 10.com.

Michael Putney came to Local 10 in 1989 to become senior political reporter and host of "This Week In South Florida with Michael Putney." He is Local 10's senior political reporter.