What we know and don’t know 1 year after Florida’s first coronavirus case
Monday marked one year since the coronavirus pandemic first arrived in Florida. It has been a year that saw virtually every facet of life change for Floridians as the state worked to “flatten the curve” and slow the spread of COVID-19. Being a “novel,” or new, virus, there were many unknowns about COVID-19 at the outset of the pandemic. While understanding of the virus has grown considerably in the 365 days since it was first detected in Florida, there are still significant gaps in knowledge of COVID-19, even among the medical community. [Source: Click Orlando]
DeSantis order allows vaccines for ‘vulnerable’ Floridians
After focusing almost exclusively since December on vaccinating seniors, Gov. Ron DeSantis has cleared the way for more people under age 65 to receive shots if they are “extremely vulnerable” to COVID-19. DeSantis issued an executive order late Friday afternoon that allows physicians to vaccinate people who are deemed “extremely vulnerable” to the disease. The executive order also will allow advanced practice registered nurses and pharmacists to provide shots to such people if physicians determine that the recipients are extremely vulnerable. [Source: News Service of Florida]
Opinion: PBMs are a critical component of the health care supply chain
Recently, in a Florida House committee hearing, the use of Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) within the Statewide Medicaid Managed Care (SMMC) program was the topic of discussion. The Florida Association of Health Plans, Inc. wants to shed light on this critical component of the health care supply chain that is often misunderstood and, frequently, the subject of misinformation campaigns. PBMs are integral to ensuring health plans — who serve the state’s most vulnerable through the SMMC program — can provide a strong pharmacy benefit that ensures Floridians have access to critically needed pharmaceuticals. [Source: Fort Myers News-Press]
Should long-term care facilities in Florida be protected from COVID-19 lawsuits?
The Republican-led Legislature has promised to fast-track legislation to protect Florida businesses from COVID-19 lawsuits, but shielding the state’s long-term care industry at the same time is proving thorny. The breadth of the liability protections and whether all long-term care facilities should be shielded are among the issues that lawmakers will consider during the annual legislative session that begins Tuesday. [Source: WJXT]
Publix will begin offering appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine at all 730 of its in-store pharmacies, the Lakeland grocer announced Thursday. Publix was the first retail pharmacy to partner with the state to administer the Moderna vaccine in Florida. Now, Walmart and Winn-Dixie stores also are offering the vaccine across the state. Floridians who are 65 years or older or work as frontline health care workers are eligible to get the vaccine from a retail pharmacist. [Source: Tampa Bay Times]
ALSO AROUND FLORIDA:
› For their historic selflessness, health-care workers named Central Floridians of the Year winners [Orlando Sentinel]
For the health-care workers of Central Florida, the past year has been like pushing a boulder up a mountain … through a forest fire … barefoot and blindfolded. “It was like being at war,” said Dr. Herman Gaztambide-Rodriguez, a pulmonary and critical care physician at Orlando Health-Health Central Hospital in Ocoee. “The amount of suffering seen by health-care workers this year equals a lifetime.”
› Pasco County getting national help to fight opioid epidemic [Health News Florida]
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the opioid epidemic continues to plague officials at all levels — and Pasco County is receiving help to battle the problem. The Pasco Sheriff's Office reported 1,491 overdoses and 268 deaths in 2020. Deaths were up 71% from 2019, compared to a 59% increase statewide.
› Robotic surgery pioneer doctor honored for 2,000th life-saving surgery using robot [WFTS]
Sarasota Memorial Hospital helped pioneer robotic surgery in the 1990s and so did Dr. Robert Carey. "Robotic surgery has provided very reliable outcomes for our patients facing a scary diagnosis of prostate cancer,” said Carey. The hospital had the first “da Vinci” surgical robot in Florida and has helped shape the technology and training for all robotic surgery.
› Florida health system to boost employee pay by 5%, upgrade other benefits [Florida Trend]
Naples-based NCH Healthcare, a two-hospital system with about 4,900 employees, said it is increasing staff pay and benefits in recognition of staff's work during the COVID-19 pandemic. The changes, announced in a Feb. 25 news release, include a 5 percent pay increase for employees, excluding the executive leadership team and employed physicians.