By LINDA CHION KENNEY
While testing continues for COVID-19, the process for vaccine distribution is underway, with Hillsborough County this week expanding its efforts to include residents age 65 and over.
According to County officials, some 9,000 doses of the vaccine were to be distributed this week to the “vulnerable population of residents age 65 and older,” including 3,000 doses transferred from Tampa General Hospital, a partner in the County’s COVID-19 mitigation efforts, as well as additional vaccine anticipated to arrive from state officials this week.
Hillsborough officials said they expect new supplies of vaccines from the state weekly, with limited availability anticipated over the next several weeks. Vaccination appointments will be available based on supply.
Officials say Hillsborough County is in Phase I of the vaccine distribution plan, which as directed by Gov. Ron DeSantis is focused on residents and staff in long-term care facilities, front-line healthcare workers and and people age 65 and over.
Vaccinations this week were scheduled at four locations, with the requirement that appointments be secured in advance online (at www.HCCOVID19Shot.as.me). Residents without Internet access are asked to call 888-755-2822 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. No vaccines will be given without an appointment, and there are no waiting lists.
Remaining distribution dates this week are Thursday, Jan. 7, at the University Mall parking lot in Tampa (2200 East Fowler Ave.) and the Vance Vogel Sports Complex in Gibsonton (13012 Bullfrog Creek Road).
Also, Jan. 8 at University Mall, the Strawberry Festival Fairgrounds in Plant City (2700 West Risk St.) and the Ed Radice Sports Complex in Tampa (14720 Ed Radice Drive); and Jan. 9, at University Mall and the Strawberry Festival Fairgrounds.
According to County officials, Florida has made about 74,000 vaccines available for heath-care partners countywide, including Tampa General Hospital,
BayCare Health System, CVS and Walgreens. Hillsborough County Emergency Management officials are working with the state to provide mobile distribution of vaccines to group homes and independent living facilities that meet the state’s criteria.
Meanwhile, Hillsborough County commissioners at their Jan. 6 board meeting were to review a report on COVID-19 programs and activities, including a summary of CARES Act funding expenditures and the particulars of the recently passed COVID-19 Economic Relief Bill, which allocates stimulus checks in the amount of $600 to individuals and $2,400 to a family of four. The moratorium on rental evictions is extended through Jan. 31.
Among the bill’s other highlights are an 11-week extension of unemployment benefits; $284 billion for additional Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loans; and billions of dollars for vaccine distribution and development, testing-related expenses and clinical research. The bill provides funds for broadband access; transportation services; childcare assistance for low-income families; housing stability and rental assistance; and substance abuse and mental health services, including suicide prevention.
With $23.8 billion allocated to states and local units of government, states are to receive no less than $200 million. Local governments with populations of more than 200,000 are eligible to access 45 percent of their state’s allocation.
In other matters, the Hillsborough County report notes that as of Dec. 30, the County tested 189,071 individuals. Reported by year-end were 74,368 cases, 2,527 hospitalizations (3.4 percent) and 1,058 deaths (1.4 percent).
County and health officials distributed more than 2.5 million pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE), including masks of all types (1,332,435), pairs of gloves (578,337), face shields (241,724), gowns (344,375) and goggles (4,637).
Also reporting on COVID-19 developments is the Hillsborough County School District, which provides an online COVID-19 dashboard to keep track of confirmed cases in schools and district offices. Hillsborough’s 28 traditional high schools accounted for 753 cases, or 42.4 percent of the 1,775 student COVID-19 cases reported as of 10:45 a.m. Jan. 5. In turn, five high schools — Plant (86 cases), Newsome (71), Steinbrenner (65), Sickles (51) and Alonso (44) — accounted for 317 cases, or 42.1 percent of the high school student total.
When ranked in respect to the largest number of traditional students versus eLearning students at each school, Plant (75.43 percent), Newsome (66.18 percent) and Steinbrenner (61.36 percent) ranked first, fifth and seventh, respectively. Rounding out the top-seven list were Plant City (69.21 percent, 33 COVID-19 cases), Sumner (68.21 percent, 38 cases) and Robinson (62.47 percent, 24 cases).
The rankings were based on the district’s 20-day enrollment count. Figures for the second semester of the 2020-21 school year were to be released later this month.
Rounding out the high schools in south Hillsborough County are Riverview (57.42 percent, 26 cases), East Bay (51.07 percent, 18 cases), Spoto (50.47 percent, 12 cases) and Lennard (59.28 percent, 8 cases). Lennard this year opened 1,206 students shy of last year’s enrollment, thanks to relief from the grand opening of Jule F. Sumner High in the Balm/Riverview area.
Overall, Hillsborough reported 2,885 cases for students and employees. Employees accounted for 1,110 cases, or 38.5 percent of the total. Employees classified as district staff accounted for 104 cases, or roughly one in 10 of the adult cases reported. Students across all levels of schooling accounted for roughly 6 in 10 cases. The number of cases for employees and students combined increased 410 from the last day of classes before winter break (Dec. 18) to 10:30 a.m. Jan. 5. Classes resumed Jan. 4.
Including all levels of schooling, roughly six in 10 cases are reported for children. The number of cases for teachers and students combined numbered 206 from Dec. 18, the last day of classes before winter break, to noon Jan. 4, the first day classes resumed.