Federal officials will open a mass COVID-19 vaccination site at the Tampa Greyhound Track, one of four such locations to open in Florida that are meant to get more of the valuable shots into arms more quickly.
In recent days, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been working with states to open several large-scale vaccination sites around the country.
Florida will have four of these sites, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Friday: the one in Tampa, at 755 E Waters Ave.; at Valencia College’s West Campus in Orlando; at the Gateway Mall in Jacksonville; and at Miami-Dade Community College’s North Campus in Miami.
The sites will open March 3 and will operate seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., according to a release from the governor’s office. Each one is expected to administer 2,000 shots per day. In addition, every site will have two smaller mobile satellite sites, each conducting 500 vaccinations a day in underserved areas, according to the release.
Altogether, the four sites would be capable of administering about 12,000 shots a day — a helpful boost to the state’s vaccination efforts. The supply will come from the federal government and will be in addition to doses the government gives Florida each week to allocate as the state sees fit.
The federal government is working with the state to open the sites. People wanting to get vaccinated at these locations should use the state’s pre-registration system, myvaccine.fl.gov, or call the designated county phone number.
DeSantis initially called President Joe Biden’s idea of using FEMA to build vaccination clinics across the U.S. a “big mistake.” But he later changed course and said he would help with the sites to get more vaccine doses into the state.
The sites will primarily use federal staff, according to a news release from the White House. It said the sites were chosen using a number of factors, including each area’s score on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Social Vulnerability Index.
The White House said Hillsborough County was identified as one of nine counties in the state with significantly underserved or marginalized populations. It said the mobile vaccination clinics could also help reach part of the Seminole Tribe of Florida population and serve nearby counties’ vulnerable communities, specifically pointing to cities such as Lake Alfred, Lakeland and Bowling Green.
The eligibility criteria at these sites will mirror the state’s requirements, according to the White House news release. In Florida, people who are 65 and older, are frontline health care workers or are staff or residents of long-term care facilities are currently eligible to get vaccines.
“We couldn’t be more excited,” Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said of the new federal site in her city. She said the city and the county worked with the Department of Health and state Division of Emergency Management to find it.
Castor said she knows there’s been a lot of frustration in the early weeks of the state’s vaccine rollout. Officials are working to get shots administered efficiently and to as wide a population as possible, she said. “We have done all in our power to ensure everyone has availability to the vaccine.”
It appears some details and communication regarding how the four federal sites will operate may still be getting worked out. The governor’s office said the Florida National Guard will be assisting with the effort. But as of early Friday afternoon, a spokeswoman said she was unaware of the guard’s involvement.
The Tampa Greyhound Track got involved on Wednesday after the governor’s office reached out, said Greg Gelyon, vice president of finance for parent company Tampa Bay Downs.
“When they ask for something this serious, to help out, we can’t say no,” Gelyon said. He said the facility’s east and west parking lots have been leased for the effort but added he doesn’t have further details about how exactly the site will be used.
Greyhound racing is no longer allowed in Florida, but the Tampa Greyhound Track, which also goes by TGT Poker & Racebook, still offers poker and simulcast race wagering, according to a spokeswoman.
As of Friday, more than 2.6 million Floridians had received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to state data. In Hillsborough County, 124,906 people had received at least one dose, while 121,996 people in Pinellas County had.
Staff writer Ileana Najarro contributed to this report.
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