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Florida adds 7,280 COVID-19 cases, 125 more deaths

Numbers come as feds plan to open four mass vaccination sites in state

Central Florida health officials share how they make sure only people eligible receive COVID-19 vaccine

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A day after the White House announced plans to open four federal mass vaccination sites in Florida, the state health department reported another 7,280 cases of COVID-19 in Florida.

Florida has now reported 1,863,707 cases of coronavirus since the pandemic began.

Jacksonville’s Gateway Town Center will be one of the mass vaccination sites, along with Miami-Dade Community College, TGT Poker & Racebook in Tampa and Valencia Community College in Orlando

The cities and locations were selected based on their proximity to vulnerable populations and officials estimate that the four centers will give up to 12,000 shots a day in total.

The state also added 125 deaths in data released Saturday, including five in Columbia County (154 total), two each in Alachua (208) and Duval (1,077) and one in St. Johns (185).

Just over 11 months after the first deaths in Florida attributed to COVID-19, the Department of Health reported Friday that the state had surpassed 30,000 deaths attributed to the virus.

As of Saturday, Florida had reported a total of 30,339 deaths of residents and visitors to the state.

The statewide positivity rate from Friday’s testing was 5.74% -- down from 5.85% the day before. There have been at least 77,654 resident hospitalizations attributed to the virus in the state. On Saturday afternoon, 4,213 people in the state are currently hospitalized with a primary diagnosis of COVID-19.

The state has now verified 433 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant that first emerged in the United Kingdom. That’s more than double the number for any state in the country, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. Florida also reported its first confirmed case of the P.1 COVID variant that’s believed to have come from Brazil.

As of Saturday morning, at least 2,668,101 people have been vaccinated in Florida, with 1,353,925 people in the state getting both shots that are needed.

On Friday, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried announced that her agency is launching a bilingual vaccine education campaign to encourage COVID-19 vaccination among the state’s farmworkers. She noted that people in the agricultural community are among the most at risk for dying from COVID-19, according to a recent University of California study.

Florida had made the vaccines available only to medical workers and people over 65. But on Friday, Jackson Health System, one of the largest in the state, announced it will now vaccinate residents age 55 and older with specific medical conditions including certain cancers, congestive heart failure and those who are morbidly obese.

Broward Mayor Steve Geller also sent a letter to the governor Friday, asking him to expand the eligibility list to include people over 55, law enforcement officers and teachers.

Meanwhile, two women in their thirties were so eager to get the shots that they disguised themselves as grannies in Orlando in an attempt to get shots, officials said.

Dr. Raul Pino from the Florida Department of Health in Orange County said the pair was busted when they tried to get their second shot on Wednesday at the Orange County Convention Center, News4Jax sister station WKMG in Orlando in reported.

Pino said the people administering the vaccines noticed the women “looked funny” and stopped them before they could get the shots. The women were issued trespass warnings from the local sheriff’s department.