POST 111. January 14, 2021. CORONAVIRUS. “Visitors from Toronto to New York to Buenos Aires have long flocked to Florida for sun, surf and shopping. Now they are coming for the Covid-19 vaccine….

Some of the arrivals are Americans or foreigners who own second homes in the state and reside here part-time. Others are making short-term visits, seizing the opportunity provided by Florida’s decision to make the vaccine available to people age 65 and older, including nonresidents. The practice, which some are calling vaccine tourism, has drawn fire from some officials and residents.

Interest is up sharply from Canadians who are looking to travel to the U.S. for vaccinations, according to Momentum Jets, a private jet service provider in Toronto.

“We’re getting requests now from clients that are willing to fly into Florida, if they have an appointment, and then fly home again on the same day,” said Janelle Brind, a company vice president. Costs for a charter flight range from $25,000 to $80,000 for a same-day round trip, she said.” (A)

“Officials said there’s no statewide residency requirement but since there’s been some confusion on the matter, News 6 contacted health departments across Central Florida to find out what the residency rules are at vaccination sites.

To sum up their answers, you don’t have to be a Florida resident.

Recently, Gov. Ron DeSantis was asked about seasonal Florida residents and weighed in on the matter.

“If you have folks who spend four or five months a year in the state of Florida, I don’t think we want to get in a situation where we’re trying to say, ‘Oh no, you go back to Rhode Island’ or, ‘You go back to Minnesota or wherever.’ So they’re here, they have a residence and they’re not just kind of flying by night for a week or two. I’m totally fine with that,” DeSantis said Monday during a news conference in Miami-Dade County.

He said the concern is people coming from other states just to get the vaccine and then leaving.

“I think if we’re trying to mitigate the disease and the clinical consequences, I think the people who are here that are over 65 — and again that’s much different than someone just showing up and saying, ‘Give me a shot’ and then they’re going to fly back somewhere, we obviously are not going to do that — but for seasonal residents who are going to be here, I think it’s totally fine if they want to do it,” DeSantis said.

After some conflicting answers, a press secretary from the Florida Division of Emergency Management said this applies to seasonal residents from out of the country as well.

“The state is committed to offering vaccines to all Floridians and non-residents, including seasonal residents that may also be a Canadian or Puerto Rico resident,” she said.” (B)

“About 4% of the 650,000 people who have been inoculated in Florida list an out-of-state residence, health department records released this week show. About 2% of both the 1.5 million people who have been diagnosed in Florida with COVID-19 and the nearly 24,000 who have died there of the disease have been nonresidents.

DeSantis said Tuesday that there have been calls to vaccine registration hotlines from foreigners and residents of other states who want to travel to Florida only long enough to get the shots, but they are turned away.

Some short-time visitors do get vaccinated, although it is impossible to say how many. The Washington Post and New York Post reported last week that two wealthy New Jersey developers, brothers David and Bill Mack, used their connections with a nursing home to get themselves and members of their Palm Beach country club vaccinated without having to go through a hotline or website.” (C)

“On Your Side contacted the Florida Department of Health Tuesday asking why there are no residency requirements in Florida and what is being done to ensure people aren’t driving and flying across state lines to take vaccines away from Floridians.

“The state is committed to offering vaccines to all Floridians and non-residents, including seasonal residents,” a state spokesperson said. “It’s also important to note, for either COVID-19 vaccine to be the most effective, a second dose is required. All individuals who reside in the state during the time period between doses are eligible to receive the vaccine. The state is continuing to prioritize vaccine access to frontline health care workers and individuals 65 and older, and the state remains committed to ensuring these populations can easily receive the vaccine.”” (D)

“South Florida hospitals, which have been given considerable leeway in deciding how they deploy vaccine doses in the last few weeks, have just recently pivoted from vaccinating healthcare workers to prioritizing the shots for senior citizens in the general public. The shift came after Gov. Ron DeSantis vowed during a press conference at a retirement community called The Villages last week that seniors would be next in line for the shots.

In Miami-Dade and Broward counties, that change in focus has also come with a new requirement by some hospitals: proof of local residency. That’s been the case at Mount Sinai Medical Center and Jackson Health System, as well as Broward Health.

But Jared Moskowitz, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, told the Miami Herald on Tuesday that no residency requirement has been issued by the state.

“You do not have to be a resident of the county,” Moskowitz said in a text message. “Period.” (E)

“Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday offered what may be his staunchest defense yet of Northerners who travel to Florida and receive a coveted COVID-19 vaccine.

Speaking to reporters at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, DeSantis contended that many snowbirds — Northerners who relocate to Florida during the warmer winter — are unlike tourists. He asserted that many sun-seekers own property in Florida, have relationships with local doctors and spend considerable time in the Sunshine State.

“We’re a transient state,” DeSantis said. “You’ll have people that will be here and it’s not like they’re just on vacation for two weeks.”

The issue of who should get access to the limited vaccine supply first is a global debate not unique to Florida.

“Some contend that Florida’s broader access may lure Americans into the state’s already long COVID-19 vaccine line.

DeSantis acknowledged the possibility. He drew the line, however, on Florida’s short-term travelers.

“We’re discouraging people who come to Florida just to get a vaccine,” DeSantis said, adding that hospitals should turn away those “flying by night” from elsewhere.”….

“If they get sick over the winter, guess what?” the Governor quipped. “They’re going to come to a hospital in Florida.” (F)

“After learning that Florida has almost a million unused vaccine doses, News4Jax reached out to local health departments who are limiting appointments saying they can’t get enough Pfsizer or Moderna vaccine.

Data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Monday afternoon shows the state of Florida has 1,661,675 doses of COVID-19 vaccines, but only about 633,440 have been administered.

This means of the vaccines Florida has received, only 38% have been given. That represents roughly 3% of Floridians.” (G)

(A)Florida’s Covid-19 Vaccines Draw Foreigners, Snowbirds, By Arian Campo-Flores and José de Córdoba, https://www.wsj.com/articles/floridas-covid-19-vaccines-draw-foreigners-snowbirds-11610620200

(B)Some snowbirds and other Florida visitors can get the COVID-19 vaccine, health officials say, by Adrienne Cutway, https://www.clickorlando.com/news/local/2020/12/30/some-snowbirds-and-other-florida-visitors-can-get-the-covid-19-vaccine-health-officials-say/

(C)Florida downplays reports of medical tourism for vaccines, by TERRY SPENCER, TAMARA LUSH and BOBBY CAINA CALVAN, https://abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory/florida-downplays-reports-medical-tourism-vaccines-75232078

(D)No residency rule: Some full-time Floridians upset snowbirds, visitors can get vaccinated in Sunshine State, by Allyson Henning, https://www.wfla.com/news/local-news/manatee-county/no-residency-rule-some-full-time-floridians-upset-snowbirds-visitors-can-get-vaccinated-in-sunshine-state/

(E)Can ‘snowbirds’ get the COVID-19 vaccine in Florida? It’s complicated, By Ben Conarck, https://www.tampabay.com/news/health/2020/12/29/can-snowbirds-get-the-covid-19-vaccine-in-florida-its-complicated/

(F)Gov. DeSantis defends snowbirds who receive COVID-19 vaccine in Florida, By Jason Delgado, https://floridapolitics.com/archives/391922-gov-ron-desantis-defends-snowbirds-who-receive-covid-19-vaccine-in-florida

(G)CDC data show Florida has 1 million unused doses of vaccine, by Jennifer Ready, https://www.news4jax.com/news/local/2021/01/12/cdc-data-shows-florida-has-more-than-a-million-unused-vaccines/

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