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60 Minutes focuses on DeSantis and Florida’s vaccine rollout

Reporter Sharyn Alfonsi compared the rollout to the “The Hunger Games.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis made a stop in Manatee County to host a press conference at the Lakewood Ranch pop-up COVID-19 vaccination site aimed at inoculating more senior citizens. DeSantis faced criticism over the site, which stands to vaccinate some of Manatee’s wealthiest residents.
Gov. Ron DeSantis made a stop in Manatee County to host a press conference at the Lakewood Ranch pop-up COVID-19 vaccination site aimed at inoculating more senior citizens. DeSantis faced criticism over the site, which stands to vaccinate some of Manatee’s wealthiest residents. [ TIFFANY TOMPKINS | Bradenton Herald ]
Published Apr. 5
Updated Yesterday

Gov. Ron DeSantis and the disparities in Florida’s coronavirus vaccine rollout led Sunday’s episode of 60 Minutes, the weekly CBS news program that draws more than 9 million viewers.

Comparing the state’s vaccine rollout to “The Hunger Games” book and movie series, reporter Sharyn Alfonsi highlighted examples in which wealthy communities were granted priority access to the vaccine, including in Manatee County’s Lakewood Ranch.

The segment also questioned the state’s plan to distribute doses through Publix in light of a $100,000 donation by the Lakeland grocery chain to a DeSantis PAC weeks before the vaccine announcement.

Related: Politifact: Unpacking edits in ’60 Minutes’ report on DeSantis, Florida vaccines

A spokesman for Publix denied to the program that there was any connection between political donations and vaccine distribution, calling the claim “irresponsible.” So did DeSantis, who declined to appear on the program but called the pay-for-play allegations a “fake narrative” when Alfonsi confronted him south of Orlando.

Jared Moskowitz, director of Florida’s division of emergency management, tweeted at the news program Sunday night, saying, “I said this before and I’ll say it again. @Publix was recommended by @FLSERT and @HealthyFla as the other pharmacies were not ready to start. Period! Full Stop! No one from the Governors office suggested Publix. It’s just absolute malarkey.”

The segment focused on Palm Beach County, where, the program reported, the wealthy city of Palm Beach received 1,000 doses from an early, limited supply. The county is also home to the Belle Glade area, a pocket of low-income, primarily Black and Latino communities where the nearest Publix is 25 miles away.

“At the beginning of this pandemic Black people, Hispanics, people of color, we bore the full force of this pandemic,” Rep. Omari Hardy, D-West Palm Beach, said on the program. “Overrepresented in the hospitalizations. Overrepresented in the deaths. And now on the back end of the pandemic, we’re bearing the full force of it as well. Because we don’t have the same access to the vaccine.”

The segment builds on previous reporting by several Florida media outlets.

Vaccines for wealthy Floridians

Publix distribution

Reactions from Florida politicos rolled in Sunday night along party lines. Democratic Congressman Charlie Crist said in a statement that the 60 Minutes report was “appalling.”

“In Gov. DeSantis’s Florida, money and power rule and everyone else is at the back of the line,” said Crist, of St. Petersburg. “This callous, cruel, and compassionless policy makes Hunger Games an apt metaphor.”

Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried said 60 Minutes was “exposing the nation” to DeSantis’ failings.

State Rep. Michele Rayner-Goolsby, a Democrat whose district includes Manatee County, said she had questions for the governor.

A Florida GOP official wasn’t a fan, calling the segment a “hit piece.”

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