State Senator Kathleen Passidomo Update February 13

This week was the fourth of five committee weeks ahead of the legislative session. We had a series of committee hearings to review bills, including a bill to establish liability protections for health care providers during COVID-19.

Florida’s positive case rates of COVID-19 are on the decline, but there are new threats on the horizon.  The B.1.1.7 variant of the virus, known as the U.K. variant, was recently detected in Florida, and there are now more than 300 cases.  Data indicates this variant is far more contagious than the original.  Therefore, it is all the more important for us to continue to protect ourselves and others. Help prevent the spread of COVID-19 by limiting gatherings and wear a mask.  Also, wash your hands often!

The good news is Florida continues to lead the nation in vaccinating seniors.  As of February 11, more than 3 million doses of vaccine have been administered.  Despite our great progress, I know there is a lot of frustration and angst among the many residents who wish to receive a vaccine, but have not been able to secure an appointment.  Supplies are distributed from the federal government and while the state has built the capacity to administer the vaccine, we don’t have the supply to meet the demand.  I have provided many resources below to assist you in receiving timely updates, finding vaccination sites and signing up for an appointment.  Thank you for your patience.  Stay safe!


  Florida COVID-19 Vaccine Update

Governor DeSantis announced this week additional COVID-19 vaccination sites across the state of Florida through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program.  The Federal Retail Pharmacy Program sites will begin offering COVID-19 vaccines on Friday, February 12, at 490 pharmacy locations across 52 counties.  The State of Florida secured these retail partnerships and collaborated to identify strategic locations for each store to ensure maximum reach.

“Florida is proud to partner with Walmart and other retailers, including Publix, to expand access to the COVID-19 vaccine,” said Governor DeSantis.  “Through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, we look forward to reaching more Floridians and ensuring that all eligible residents who want a vaccine are able to receive one.  We will continue to utilize strategic partnerships and identify innovative ways to get more shots in arms and put Florida’s Seniors First.”

For the first week of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, the state is expecting to receive 65,300 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.  Future allocations through this program will be announced as they become available.

Read the Governor’s press release.



  Reminder: Find COVID-19 Vaccinations Near You

The Florida Department of Health (DOH) launched a vaccine locator site.  The website helps Floridians to find vaccine sites by county or city and contains contact information for each location.  Click here to view locations.

Appointments may be required, and vaccine availability will vary from day to day and week to week as we work to provide vaccines to the most vulnerable first.

The state is prioritizing:

·         Persons 65 years of age and older

·         Health care personnel with direct patient contact

·         Residents and staff of long-term care facilities

·         Persons deemed to be extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 by hospital providers



  Reminder: You Can Pre-Register for the COVID-19 Vaccine

The Florida DOH has launched a statewide preregistration system to schedule COVID-19 vaccine appointments for individuals 65 and older and frontline health care workers only.

Individuals can preregister for vaccine appointments and be notified when appointments are available in their area by visiting

Vaccine supply remains limited and appointments may not be available for several weeks in some counties.

Additionally, as part of the statewide registration system, each county has a designated phone number that individuals can call and preregister if they do not have internet access. Please find the complete list of numbers by county here.



  COVID-19 Update: Florida Case Data

As of February 11, there have been 1,798,280 positive cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Florida, including 28,783 in Collier County, 4,155 in Hendry County and 54,762 in Lee County.

As of February 11, the state’s positivity rate for new cases is 6.59%.

To find the most up-to-date information and guidance, you can visit the Florida Department of Health (DOH) 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.



  Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Strong COVID-19 Liability Protections for Health Care Providers

The Florida Senate recognizes our frontline workers as the heroes that they are.  From day one of the COVID-19 pandemic, Florida’s devoted health care providers put their own health at risk to serve their fellow Floridians.

Senate Bill 74: COVID-19- related Claims Against Health Care Providers, by Senator Jeff Brandes, passed the Senate Committee on Judiciary and aims to ensure health care providers, who do and have done the right thing amidst continually changing and conflicting guidelines, are not threatened with frivolous lawsuits that hinder their ability to serve their patients.

The bill requires a plaintiff who files a COVID-19-related lawsuit to prove that a health care provider’s conduct constituted gross negligence or intentional misconduct and establishes procedures to filter out claims that have insufficient factual support.  The protections apply specifically to acts or omissions made in reliance upon government-issued health standards or guidance relating to COVID-19.   Current law provides different procedures for negligence claims against nursing homes and assisted living facilities than for other types of health care providers, such as doctors and hospitals. Senate Bill 72 provides that its provisions will apply to all health care providers with respect to COVID-19-related claims.

“Through it all, our health care providers have made incredible sacrifices.  Physicians have been asked to make very difficult choices to delay surgeries and procedures to preserve PPE and other supplies.  Nursing homes were asked to keep their doors open and maintain staffing levels.  Around the country, we have lost thousands of health care workers who have struggled with this.  This legislation protects a health care industry that has gone over and above the call of duty to protect and help our citizens,” said Senator Brandes.

To learn more about the bill, click here.



  Legislation Advances to Ensure College Tuition Exemptions for Students in DCF Care 

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education, chaired by Senator Doug Broxson, advanced Senate Bill 52: Postsecondary Education, by Senator Ray Rodrigues.

Young Floridians who enter the child welfare system deserve all the support that we can give, and this legislation clarifies state laws to ensure students who turn 18 while in the custody of the Department of Children and Families (DCF) or a specified guardian are exempt from tuition and fees at Florida’s postsecondary institutions.

Senate Bill 52 also increases access to dual enrollment for students in public, private, or virtual education settings by creating the Dual Enrollment Scholarship Program, bolstering state funding of dual enrollment tuition and instructional material costs.

Additionally, the legislation authorizes universities to create a bonus program for their best employees. This allows universities to reward exceptional employees without being required to consider across-the-board bonuses.

To learn more about SB 52, click here.



  Committee Passes Legislation to Give More Children a Second Chance at Success

Children in Florida’s juvenile justice system deserve a second chance if they are willing to work hard and learn from their mistakes.

Senate Bill 274: Juvenile Diversion Program Expunction, by Senator Keith Perry, passed the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice. This legislation seeks to expand those who are eligible to complete a diversion program and have their arrest record expunged.

Diversion programs like this are designed to keep minors from reentering the juvenile justice system and to maximize their opportunity for success.

Senate Bill 274 expands eligibility so that minors who committed certain felony offenses, if recommended by a state attorney or law enforcement officer involved in the case, may complete a juvenile diversion program to have their nonjudicial arrest record expunged.

This legislation will provide more at-risk youth in Florida the chance to fix their mistakes and lead productive lives.



  Senate Judiciary Committee Passes Employee Protection Against Unions

SB 78, by Senator Rodrigues, prevents organizations from requiring employees to join a union without consent and ensures that employees who wish to revoke their membership are able to do so.

The proposed measure was heard in Senate Judiciary Committee this week and passed 6 to 4. It previously was heard in Government Oversight. Next, it will be heard in Senate Rules Committee, of which I am chair.

To learn more about the bill, click here.



  Call to Action to Army Corps of Engineers

Last week, Senate President Wilton Simpson sent a letter to Colonel Andrew Kelly of the Army Corps of Engineers – Jacksonville District, emphasizing his commitment to storage solutions north of the Lake Okeechobee.

“While I have been supportive of interventions both north and south of the lake over the last several years, my concern has been that the aggressive timeline for southern storage has been at the expense of very important interventions north of the lake,” Simpson wrote.

“Unfortunately, this timeline and the policy and funding priorities associated with it have unnecessarily pitted north against south and perpetuated the false narrative that a southern reservoir alone will solve the problem. I reject that narrative, and it is for this reason I have advocated that a concurrent focus on problems north of the lake — where the Everglades begin — is key to an efficient, effective, and complete restoration.”

To learn more about Senate President Simpson’s commitment to restore and protect Lake Okeechobee, read this story.

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