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Florida stands ready to receive COVID-19 vaccines

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida added another 9,000 COVID-19 cases Friday, bringing the total to more than 914,000 in the state since the start of the pandemic.

However, Florida leaders are optimistic for the future, with hope that two vaccines may be ready to roll out before the end of the year.

“I don’t believe we’re going to a dark winter,” said Senate President Wilton Simpson.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said while it’s not clear how many vaccine doses the state will get or exactly when they’ll arrive, once the FDA gives the go ahead, the rollout will move quickly.

“They will then go out within the next 24 hours,” said DeSantis.

Five Florida hospitals will receive the first doses, including Tampa General Hospital where Dr. Jason Wilson has been on the front lines during the pandemic.

“You know there’s been some frustrations in the sense of, you know we don’t have a lot of tools and things to offer,” said Wilson.

He said news of the vaccines and the approval of a monoclonal antibody treatment are a game changers.

“These vaccines give us some light at the end of the tunnel. These vaccines give us the idea that all these efforts we’re making are paying off,” said Wilson.

Nearly 2,000 long term care facilities are slated to receive vaccines.

“It gives us hope,” said Kristen Knapp with the Florida Health Care Association.

Knapp said for residents, it couldn’t come soon enough.

“They really have undergone so much with the visitation restrictions early on and just the different challenges for them. In a home-like environment that they were so used to for so long and everything really turned upside down for them,” said Knapp.

While the vaccines signal a light at the end of the tunnel, health professionals say now is not the time to let your guard down.

“This is, you know, not the year to have a big Thanksgiving holiday gathering. It’s not going to be the year to travel for the holidays,” said Wilson.

Hospitals and long term care facilities will still have to develop plans for distributing the vaccines to patients, residents and staff.

Another challenge will be educating the public about the importance of vaccine. The governor has said vaccines will not be mandatory.

It’s expected the vaccine could be available to the general population as early as April, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci.