Merry Christmas from Kathleen Passidomo

This year delivered many challenges to our state and our nation, but hope is on the horizon.  The FDA last Friday granted approval for a COVID-19 vaccine to be administered in the United States.  On Monday, December 14, a nurse in Tampa received the first COVID-19 vaccine in Florida after Governor Ron DeSantis accepted the shipment.  100,000 doses of the vaccine are expected to arrive in Florida this week, and will be administered to the workers on the front line, as well as Florida’s most vulnerable citizens.

While this is a great stride forward in our fight against COVID-19, the vast majority of us remain at risk until the vaccine is widely available.  Continue to follow CDC guidelines, practice social distancing, wear a mask and wash your hands.  It is our personal responsibility to keep ourselves and others safe by taking simple steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

I hope you all have a very merry Christmas and a blessed holiday season.  May 2021 bring you good health and great joy.


COVID-19 Update: Florida Hospitalizations & Case Data

This month, Florida became the third state to exceed 1 million cases.  As of December 17, there have been 1,155,335 positive cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Florida, including 20,294  in Collier County, 2,897 in Hendry County and 35,353 in Lee County.

As of Tuesday, December 15, the state’s positivity rate for new cases is 9.28%.

Data reported to the Florida Department of Health (DOH) shows there has been a steady decline in the number of reported Florida resident deaths who were previously diagnosed with COVID-19.

To find the most up-to-date information and guidance, you can visit DOH’s COVID-19 webpage.

For information and advisories from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), please visit the CDC COVID-19 website.

If you are experiencing symptoms, please contact your local County Health Department.


Local COVID-19 Hospitalizations

As of December 17, 12,370 hospital beds remain available across Florida, representing 19.91% of total capacity.

Collier County has 13.4% availability, Hendry County has 44.83% availability, and Lee County has 10.93% availability.

For real-time information on Florida’s local hospital bed availability and capacity, visit the Agency for Health Care Administration’s website.


Governor DeSantis Issues Updates on COVID-19 Vaccine Plan

On December 10, Governor Ron DeSantis announced his plan to distribute Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine in Florida.

“Our top priority is residents of long-term care facilities.  They are at the greatest risk and this vaccine could have a positive impact, not just protecting them from COVID, but allowing them to return to a more normal life,” said Governor DeSantis.

Elderly residents and individuals considered high-risk who suffer from multiple medical or health conditions will be next in line for the vaccine.

Florida anticipates additional vaccine options as other companies await approval from the FDA.  Click here to learn more about the Governor’s vaccine distribution plan.


Electoral College Meets

On Monday, December 14, I was proud to serve as one of Florida’s 29 electors and cast a vote on behalf of Florida.

It was a historic moment and an important part of our nation’s democratic process.  It was an honor to represent our state.


Florida Senate Committees Announced

Earlier this month, Senate President Wilton Simpson announced his leadership appointments for his 2020-2022 term.

This upcoming legislative session, I am honored to serve as Chair to the Senate Rules Committee.  In my new position as Chair, I will work to ensure we produce and advance policies that help Florida recover and rebuild from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other chair positions appointed by Senate President Simpson are:

Chair: Senator Darryl Rouson
Vice Chair: Senator Jennifer Bradley

Chair: Senator Kelli Stargel
Vice Chair: Senator Aaron Bean

Banking and Insurance
Chair: Senator Jim Boyd
Vice Chair: Senator Doug Broxson

Children, Families, and Elder Affairs
Chair: Senator Lauren Book
Vice Chair: Senator Ben Albritton

Commerce and Tourism 
Chair: Senator Ed Hooper
Vice Chair: Senator Tom Wright

Community Affairs
Chair: Senator Jennifer Bradley
Vice Chair: Senator Ileana Garcia

Criminal Justice
Chair: Senator Jason Pizzo
Vice Chair: Senator Jeff Brandes

Chair: Senator Joe Gruters
Vice Chair: Senator Shevrin Jones

Environment and Natural Resources
Chair: Senator Jason Brodeur
Vice Chair: Senator Linda Stewart

Ethics and Elections
Chair: Senator Dennis Baxley
Vice Chair: Senator Annette Taddeo

Finance and Tax
Chair: Senator Ana Maria Rodriguez
Vice Chair: Senator Janet Cruz

Governmental Oversight and Accountability
Chair: Senator Ray Rodrigues
Vice Chair: Senator Joe Gruters

Health Policy
Chair: Senator Manny Diaz, Jr.
Vice Chair: Senator Jason Brodeur

Chair: Senator Jeff Brandes
Vice Chair: Senator Audrey Gibson

Military and Veterans Affairs, Space, and Domestic Security
Chair: Senator Tom Wright
Vice Chair: Senator Gayle Harrell

Regulated Industries
Chair: Senator Travis Hutson
Vice Chair: Senator Lauren Book

Chair: Senator Kathleen Passidomo
Vice Chair: Senator Ileana Garcia

Chair: Senator Gayle Harrell
Vice Chair: Senator Keith Perry


Traveling? Remain Healthy This Holiday Season

Travel increases your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19.  If you must travel this holiday season, the CDC recommends the following steps to best protect yourself and others:

·         Check travel restrictions before you go.

·         Check CDC’s Domestic Travel Guidance and consider testing before and after you travel.

·         Get your flu shot before you travel.

·         Always wear a mask in public settings and on public transportation.

·         Stay at least six feet apart from anyone who is not in your household.

·         Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer.

·         Avoid touching your mask, eyes, nose and mouth.

·         Bring extra supplies, such as masks and hand sanitizer.

·         If driving, pack your food and limit stops.

·         Know when to delay your travel.


Tips to Host a Healthy Holiday Gathering

If you choose to host loved ones in your home, the CDC recommends the following steps to make holiday celebrations safer.

·         Set expectations with guests ahead of celebrating together.

·         Limit the number of guests.

·         Have a small, outdoor celebration with family and friends who live in your community, weather-permitting.

·         Have extra unused masks available for your guests and encourage everyone to wear them.

·         Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and items between use.

·         If celebrating indoors, bring in fresh air by opening windows and doors, if possible.

·         Have a separate space for guests to wash their hands or provide hand sanitizer.

·         Cancel your gathering if you or someone who lives with you is sick or has been near someone who thinks they have COVID-19.

·         It’s okay if you decide to postpone or cancel your gathering. Do what’s best for you.


December Festivities in Southwest Florida

As we finish out a very challenging year, we turn our attention to the excitement of the holidays and all the festivities that come with the season.

WINK News and the Naples Daily News have both provided a list of local holiday events for you and your family to plan ahead and safely participate in this year.

Visit the WINK News website or the Naples Daily News for a list of upcoming events.


Protect Yourself from “Porch Pirates” This Holiday Season

With the increased number of packages being dropped off at doorsteps and left on porches, the Hendry County Sheriff’s Office offered up some safety tips to prevent you from being a target of a home-delivery theft this year.  Here are some tips to protect yourself from holiday “Porch Pirates:”

·         Be sure to make note of your packages’ tracking numbers and monitor delivery while in transit.  Plan to be home during that time, if possible.

·         Require that someone sign for packages.

·         Try to make arrangements with your shippers to leave packages out of sight.

·         Establish a relationship with your U.S. Postal Service worker and service-delivery employees. This can be helpful when problems need to be solved.

·         Look into locking mailboxes with baffle doors that accept small packages.

·         Have packages delivered to your workplace or other safer locations.

·         Make arrangements for your neighbor to keep an eye out for your packages.

·         Install security cameras.

·         Rent a box or locker at your local post office or UPS store.

·         Insure valuable items.

·         If your uninsured packages are stolen, ask for a replacement by the shipper. In some cases, they may offer this for free.

·         Report stolen packages to law enforcement so they are better able to work on catching thieves, who are often targeting multiple homes.

·         Keep an eye out for suspicious vehicles that might appear to be following delivery trucks or lingering too long in front of homes.


Holiday Collection & Charity Drive Opportunities 

This year has been challenging for all, which is why this holiday season holds great significance to give back to others who may need a boost in spirits this December.  Here are some opportunities to contribute locally and help others have a joyful end to the year.

Cape Coral Fire Department Toy Drive
The Fire Department will accept donations for boys and girls newborn to 17 years. Gifts for teens are often in short supply.  Collection boxes for the toy drive are located at each of the 11 fire stations throughout Cape Coral. Read more here for suggested donation ideas.

Lee County Domestic Animal Services Gift Giving Tree
Visitors can pick an ornament, fulfill a wish and return it to Animal Services by Monday, Dec. 21, to help make the animals’ holiday a little brighter.  The adoption center is located at 5600 Banner Drive in Fort Myers and is open from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday.  Click here for more information.

USPS’ ‘Operation Santa’
This program matches children and families in need with donors.  Gift givers can read letters online and select a child or family – or multiple ones – to support.  Online adoptions start Dec. 4 and end Dec. 19.   Read more on how to participate here.

Toys for Tots
Drop-off locations in Southwest Florida can be found here.

Operation Christmas Care
Every year, FGCU collects gifts for families in need.  Click here to learn more about the program.

Operation Christmas Child
Samaritan’s Purse allows you to build a shoebox filled with supplies and gifts to give to a child in need. Start building your shoebox here.

Be a Santa to a Senior
Home Instead Senior Care partners with local non-profit and community organizations to identify seniors who might not otherwise receive gifts this holiday season.  The company then works with local businesses and retail stores to help facilitate the purchase and distribution of gifts by placing trees and ornaments within their various locations.  Learn how to participate locally here.


Southwest Florida COVID-19 Testing Locations

Many testing locations offer free testing.  Find the most up-to-date information on services offered, appointments and locations at the links below.

·         Hendry County

·         Lee County

·         Collier County


In the News

3 Southwest Florida nonprofits receive grants from Gannett’s ‘A Community Thrives’ program

Southwest Florida Reading Festival goes fully virtual

Minor league baseball: Minnesota Twins invite Fort Myers Mighty Mussels to extend relationship


Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas from my family to yours.


Kathleen C. Passidomo

Senate Majority Leader
State Senator, District 28

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