TALLAHASSEE, FL – Black elected officials are speaking out about what they see as Gov. Ron DeSantis’s pattern of prioritizing COVID-19 vaccines for people in affluent, mostly white neighborhoods. State Rep. Omari Hardy, D-West Palm Beach – said white individuals are being vaccinated much sooner and faster all over the state, with Black individuals left lagging.
Reporters raised concerns by some Manatee County officials that the new vaccine pop-up site in an upscale development was not in an area of most need. The governor responded, “If Manatee County doesn’t like us doing this, then we are totally fine with putting this in counties that want it.”
“That’s authoritarian,” said Hardy. “It’s vindictive. It’s just downright evil, and the governor should apologize for that. And if he doesn’t apologize, then it shows that that’s what he really feels. That’s what he really wishes he could do, in his heart.”
When asked about the criticism during an appearance on Fox News, DeSantis said he’s “putting seniors first.” As of yesterday, state data showed just over 138,000 Black Floridians have received the vaccine, compared to more than 1,600,000 whites.
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Critics say DeSantis ignored federal guidelines and prioritized seniors – a reliable voting bloc – to be vaccinated first, and Hardy cautioned the governor’s words and actions shouldn’t be written off as political theater.
“The governor has treated Black people, and people of color more generally, as an afterthought,” said Hardy. “I’m not going to shut up about that.”
In a combative news conference, DeSantis said local officials should be thankful because they didn’t need to set up the site. A Manatee County commissioner who reportedly helped select the site stands accused of requesting vaccination appointments for four politically connected friends, two of whom live outside the designated area.
Next week, Florida is expected to get 41,000 additional vaccine doses.