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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 2/20/21

DeSantis Gets Publix Payday, Threatens to Pull Covid-19 Vaccine if He is Criticized


Ron DeSantis Threatens To Pull Vaccines From Florida Counties That Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) brushed aside criticism after the state opted to give special access to Covid vaccines for residents of the .whitest and richest. ...
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Dear President Biden,

I know you ran for president promising to represent all Americans. I have even heard you repeat that promise since you took office on Jan. 20.

Your vow of devotion to care for the needs of all of us stands in contrast with the gerrymandered tirades of the Republican governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis.

This week he outdid himself. His dour, petulant, hostile public statements reached epic proportions when the press and public dared to question an action he took as the leader of the Sunshine State.

DeSantis spewed bile when we learned that he targeted a few thousand doses of the Covid-19 vaccine to select zip codes that serve wealthy, white people in an affluent part of the state.

According to Newsweek, "Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis suggested Wednesday that he would divert COVID-19 vaccines from communities that criticize his distribution methods after he was accused of targeting the 'whitest and richest' ZIP codes to receive the shot."

The governor, speaking at a press conference, continued, "Anyone in Manatee [County], if they don't want us doing it, then just tell us, and we'll make sure that we send those doses to folks who want it.

"We are totally fine putting this in counties that want it. We're totally happy to do that."

Will someone please give our governor a jab of Haldol. He is not making any sense. Surely people in all 67 Florida counties want their fair share of the Covid-19 vaccine. Surely folk who live in red counties and blue counties want to live.

The DeSantis outburst also came after press reports indicated that people of color are not getting Covid-19 vaccinations in proportion to their numbers.

CBS News reported, "As of February 7, residents of Florida's top 10 counties with the highest percentage of White residents were 80% more likely to have received at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine than those who live in the top 10 counties where non-Hispanic Whites make up the smallest percentage of the total population."

The national news network report continued, "Residents of Florida's 10 counties with the highest incomes had a vaccination rate of 9% that's nearly double the 5% vaccination rate of people living in the state's 10 poorest counties. Statewide, the first-dose vaccination rate for Floridians is 6%."

CBS noted another disturbing way the governor is not meeting the needs of all Floridians when it comes to distributing the Covid-19 vaccine.

"Publix, the supermarket chain, is the main pharmacy provider of vaccines in Florida. In Broward County which has a population of nearly 2 million and is among the state's districts with the highest percentage of Black residents not one of the more than 50 Publix locations in the county has begun to provide COVID-19 vaccinations. Boca Raton a wealthier and whiter city in Palm Beach County, with one-twentieth the population of Broward has 10 Publix locations offering the vaccine. "

Again DeSantis, by word and deed, is not making any sense. He asserts he is making sure senior citizens get their Covid-19 vaccinations first because they are more vulnerable than most to becoming gravely ill and dying.

Ok. So why keep the vaccine out of Publix in Broward County? We've got lots of seniors in Broward County, the second-most populous county in the state, governor. Of course, a good many of them may be people of color or even registered Democrats.

What's more, chances are most Broward County residents can't afford to send the DeSantis political committee checks totaling $100,000. That's how much Publix gave him recently. Publix and DeSantis deny any link between the donations and the deal to let Publix administer many Covid-19 vaccinations.

See what I mean, President Biden. We've got a bit of a mess in Florida. Any chance you can come on down here to take DeSantis on a nature tour of the Everglades? It might put the Ivy League-educated attorney in a better frame of mind.

Links to Articles to Support this Story:

Ron DeSantis Threatens to Divert Vaccines After Charges of Targeting 'Whitest and Richest' Areas (msn.com)

Whites are 4 times more likely to get the COVID vaccine than Black people in Palm Beach County, Florida - CBS News

DeSantis, Publix: No Connection To $100K Donation And COVID Vaccine Program | Health News Florida (usf.edu)

 

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Steve Schneider lives in Hollywood, Fl. He thinks registering and voting should be easy and convenient for everyone. He started a Substack newsletter, What's Going On, on Christmas Day, 2020.

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2 people are discussing this page, with 10 comments  Post Comment


Fred W

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According to Newsweek, "Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis suggested Wednesday that he would divert COVID-19 vaccines from communities that criticize his distribution methods after he was accused of targeting the 'whitest and richest' ZIP codes to receive the shot."

The statement DeSantis made that the headline refers to doesn't seem to say what the article writer says it says. That is because Manatee County, we find out upon reading the article, the place DeSantis said he would be happy to exclude if the people there don't want it, is actually the very place some people were complaining about, where the rich were getting it before other people. So, I think he was saying is that if there are some people living in this richer area who think that the vaccine should be sent somewhere else instead, he would be happy to accommodate them. Obviously tongue-in-cheek but not implying at all that he would not send it to more marginalized areas. Probably he is rather implying that his critics are themselves rich liberals who would balk at not getting their vaccines if push came to shove.

At least, that's my read of it.

Submitted on Saturday, Feb 20, 2021 at 9:21:52 PM

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Steve Schneider

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Reply to Fred W:   New Content

Nice try, Fred. Rich conservative Republicans have been getting special treatment -- affirmative action -- from Ivy League Ron.

As per The Grio:

"Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is catching heat over his decision to prioritize distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine to rich, white Republicans...The clinic reportedly serves only conservative residents from two zip codes. Per the Sun-Sentinel, similar sites were launched for the elderly at the Kings Point community in Palm Beach County, Sun City Center in Hillsborough and The Villages retirement community."

The Grio and the Sun-Sentinel are correct -- DeSantis is handing out the goodies to the above-mentioned communities, which are known for attracting white, wealthy folk. In fact, during the fall campaign, a resident from The Villages made national news during a Trump visit. According to Forbes:

"A man standing directly behind President Donald Trump at a campaign rally at The Villages in Florida on Friday repeatedly made a hand gesture associated with the white supremacy movement, which coincided with the president making several racially insensitive remarks during his stump speech."

As I said, nice try, Fred.

Submitted on Sunday, Feb 21, 2021 at 12:03:08 AM

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Steve Schneider

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Reply to Fred W:   New Content

Here is more information about Manatee County, which has more registered Republicans than Democrats, according to the Elections Division of the Florida Department of State:

Florida's Ron DeSantis defends vaccine distribution to a wealthy, Republican county while Democrats attack him for playing 'favorites' (msn.com)

The above link indicates there are wealthy parts of Manatee County and parts of the community that are more needy. In fact, the above article shows a Republican county commissioner was not pleased with what GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis did:

Commissioner Misty Servia was one of several Republicans to push back. "It does compromise our system. It does pit people against each other," she said. In particular, Servia said it contributes to the idea that Manatee County has "a racism problem," noting that the zip codes chosen represent "the whitest demographic, the richest demographic in Manatee County, and putting them ahead of everyone else."

Submitted on Sunday, Feb 21, 2021 at 12:57:54 AM

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Fred W

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I wasn't arguing that rich people weren't getting the vaccine faster, which seems to be common across the country, too. Just that the idea that he said he would deny vaccines to critics was unfounded.

Submitted on Sunday, Feb 21, 2021 at 2:03:07 AM

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Steve Schneider

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Reply to Fred W:   New Content

You indicated he was poking fun at rich liberal critics. I showed you this is not the case. There are more Republicans in Manatee County than Democrats. I also showed you a Republican critic who said the vaccines should go to those in the county who are more in need than the wealthy, white Republicans who live in two select zip codes in the county.

Ivy League Ron practices affirmative action for wealthy, white Republicans. Is that how it is all across the country?

If so, maybe it's time for different people, with different understands of reality to start running government at all levels.

And btw, I'm an aging white guy with a high school degree. I never made much money. This profile means I should belong to the MAGA Club that loves Trump and DeSantis.

I don't. I'm a liberal Democrat who wants people in greater need to get the vaccine first.

Submitted on Sunday, Feb 21, 2021 at 11:37:05 AM

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Sun Sentinel Article on Controversy:

'I wouldn't be complaining.' Gov. DeSantis threatens to pull coronavirus vaccine from communities that criticize distribution

By SKYLER SWISHER, STEVEN LEMONGELLO and RICHARD TRIBOU

SOUTH FLORIDA SUN SENTINEL |

FEB 18, 2021 AT 7:07 PM

Governor Ron DeSantis threatens to withhold COVID-19 vaccines from communities that criticize distribution.

Gov. Ron DeSantis defended his decision Wednesday to steer COVID-19 vaccine to a planned community with family ties to a Republican power couple, threatening to pull doses if local officials criticize his distribution methods.

DeSantis is facing questions over his decision to provide seniors living in two of Manatee County's wealthiest ZIP codes with special access to the vaccine.

The pop-up vaccination site is serving residents of Lakewood Ranch, a planned community in Southwest Florida with family ties to Liz and Dick Uihlein. The New York Times dubbed the pair "the most powerful conservative couple you've never heard of."

The couple's list of political contributions includes $900,000 Dick Uihlein gave to DeSantis' political committee in 2018 and 2019.

DeSantis brushed aside concerns of political favoritism during a news conference Wednesday and then issued a warning to local officials complaining about his plan.

RELATED: Publix COVID-19 vaccine lies out of reach for poor, Black Floridians ┬╗

"If Manatee County doesn't like us doing this, we are totally fine with putting this in counties that want it," DeSantis said.

l

Submitted on Sunday, Feb 21, 2021 at 12:02:11 PM

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The governor called the developer Rex Jensen and arranged for 3,000 doses to be delivered to a vaccination site for Lakewood Ranch and other wealthy neighborhoods in Manatee County, the Bradenton Herald reported. Jensen is the president and CEO of Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, the parent company of the planned Lakewood Ranch community in Southwest Florida.

Manatee County Commissioner Misty Servia told the Bradenton Herald she didn't understand why those neighborhoods were being prioritized

"For the life of me, I can't understand why we would vaccinate the most affluent neighborhoods in the county ahead of everyone else, especially the underserved neighborhoods and large number of manufactured home parks in our community," Servia wrote in a text message to the Bradenton Herald.

DeSantis said the state is focusing on communities with a high concentration of seniors that are willing to help organize vaccination events, and Manatee County has trailed other parts of the state in vaccinating residents 65 years and older. He said the 3,000 doses are in addition to the county's weekly allotment.

Unforced error? Famously combative with media, @GovRonDeSantis today says public criticisms about vaccine distribution in parts of Florida could divert vaccines to areas where there are no political criticisms of his efforts https://t.co/jqETqNjI9T pic.twitter.com/Idy4mfTJdk

Ted Bridis (@tbridis) February 17, 2021

The state has set up similar sites at the 55-and-up Kings Point community in Palm Beach County, Sun City Center in Hillsborough and The Villages mega-retirement community, DeSantis said.

Submitted on Sunday, Feb 21, 2021 at 12:05:12 PM

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Lakewood Ranch's parent company, Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, is owned by the Uihlein family. While a precise breakdown of family ownership is unclear, family members Liz and Dick Uihlein of Illinois are some of the biggest Republican donors in the country, giving $26 million nationally to more than 60 congressional candidates.

Dick Uihlein also contributed $900,000 to the Friends of Ron DeSantis political committee in 2018 and 2019, according to its filings.

Liz Uihlein was also one of the biggest critics of anti-COVID-19 lockdowns, calling the pandemic "overhyped" in April. Dick Uihlein is a descendant of a founder of the Schlitz Brewing Co.

RELATED: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis opens vaccine site in Pahokee, after complaints that low-income areas were left out ┬╗

Lisa Barnott, a spokeswoman for Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, wrote in an email that Liz and Dick Uihlein are not shareholders in the company.

"The state [Gov. DeSantis] called our CEO and asked to hold a pop-up clinic in Lakewood Ranch," she wrote "We connected them with our county commissioner, who coordinated the use of the county-owned Premier Sports Campus."

The Uihleins issued a statement on Thursday. "Our immediate family, including our children, have no ties to either Lakewood Ranch or Schroeder-Manatee Ranch," Liz and Dick Uihlein said.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said on Wednesday she has concerns that DeSantis has shown favoritism to political supporters and wealthy communities.

"To threaten that he would pull vaccine if people don't like the way the distribution system is working is vile and shows the callous indifference he has had in how the vaccine has been handled," she said.

Nikki Fried, Florida's Democratic agriculture commissioner, condemned DeSantis' remarks in a statement.

"There is no reason that Gov. DeSantis should be rationing vaccines based on political influence," she said. "This is troubling and potentially illegal. Vaccines should be distributed to counties based on need, capacity, and science."

DeSantis also faced criticism in Palm Beach County for routing vaccine distribution primarily through Publix pharmacies, leaving poor and rural areas uncovered. DeSantis responded by setting up a vaccination site in Pahokee, an underserved community in the Glades.

He said Wednesday that local officials should be grateful for extra doses they receive for special vaccination sites.

"I'll tell you what, I wouldn't be complaining," he said. "I'd be thankful that we are able to do it."

UPDATE: This story was changed to include a statement by Liz and Dick Uihlein indicating their immediate family has no ties to either Lakewood Ranch or Schroeder-Manatee Ranch.

Submitted on Sunday, Feb 21, 2021 at 12:06:20 PM

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Fred W

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Reply to Steve Schneider:   New Content

So I guess I finally see your point, although it took me a while to understand it. That's because at first you were pointing out that Manatee County is more rich/Republican than, say, Broward County. That didn't seem pertinent to me because DeSantis' remark was addressed to Manatee County officials. But it seems that it's not that Manatee County, per se, wasn't prioritized but that the richer/Republican parts of Manatee County were prioritized, that that is problematic for many, and that DeSantis was understood to be threatening to withhold vaccine from the poorer parts of Manatee County (he didn't specify that, but the critics to whom his remarks were addressed were representatives of the poorer parts). Do I have it right now?

Submitted on Tuesday, Feb 23, 2021 at 2:20:56 AM

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Steve Schneider

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Reply to Fred W:   New Content

Sorry for the confusing writing, Fred. I was trying to discuss a few different points and pull them into one article.

1. DeSantis caters to white, rich, Republicans such as the classy zip codes in Manatee County and the exclusive Trump-loving GOP development called The Villages.

2. He disadvantages communities that have a lot of people of color and/or registered Democrats, such as Broward County, where I live.

3. Money and race seem to motivate him. For example, he shoved CVS and Walgreens pharmacies to the side to give a big Covid-19 vaccine deal to the pharmacies in Publix Supermarkets in the Sunshine State. This happened after Publix donated $100,000 to a DeSantis political committee.

In a previous comment post, I also quoted extensively from a Sun Sentinel article showing that DeSantis got big bucks from a Republican developer who happens to have created a fancy community in that exclusive Manatee County zip code.

Money and race are two ways to understand DeSantis, I think. The race angle was explored during the 2018 campaign for governor when a young African-American Democratic candidate, Andrew Gillum, said of DeSantis during a debate, "The racists think he is a racist."

Submitted on Tuesday, Feb 23, 2021 at 3:58:23 AM

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