On Sunday, the iconic new magazine, 60 Minutes, attempted one of the biggest smears in media history regarding Florida’s COVID-19 response and vaccine distribution efforts.
The Washington Post sums it up this way: According to “60 Minutes,” critics alleged that DeSantis engaged in “pay-to-play” with his vaccine rollout, favoring the grocery chain Publix by giving it the vaccine distribution contract in Palm Beach County after the company gave $100,000 to his reelection campaign. When correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi asked him about it at a news conference, DeSantis systematically took apart her accusations — but “60 Minutes” selectively edited his answer to remove the exculpatory information.
Fortunately, video of DeSantis’s full news conference is available online, so we can compare what he actually said with the edited version “60 Minutes” shared. According to DeSantis, it was Democratic officials in Palm Beach who wanted to use Publix because it was closest to most of their seniors. The governor explained that at the time, other pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens were busy vaccinating people at long-term care facilities, so they were not available for retail distribution. He turned to Publix because “they were the first one to raise their hand, say they were ready to go. And … we did it on a trial basis.” The feedback from seniors, he said, “was 100 percent positive, so we expanded it.”
Governor DeSantis had a few choice words for 60 Minutes:
“CBS and 60 Minutes have a playbook: lie with impunity, smear their political opponents and deceptively edit out the facts that eviscerate their bogus, partisan narratives.
“From the beginning of vaccine distribution, Florida has prioritized our most vulnerable, our seniors and our underserved communities. These efforts have been incredibly successful and effective. However, CBS and 60 Minutes are dedicated to leaving the truth on the cutting room floor.”
The Governor spells out the facts in a news release:
- The state does not have a deal with Publix and did not give Publix exclusive rights to administer the vaccine in Palm Beach County.
- In December, Florida launched the Federal Long-Term Care Pharmacy Program with partners CVS and Walgreens to vaccinate all seniors living in long-term care facilities. By January 5, 2021, Florida had allocated more than 100,000 first doses to CVS and Walgreens to implement this mission statewide. By implementing this strategy, Florida supported vaccinations in 100% of nursing homes and 99% of assisted living facilities in Palm Beach County.
- The Palm Beach County Health Department was among the first in the state to receive the vaccine in December as one of the eight initial County Health Departments to receive the vaccine. The County Health Department received 20,000 doses the week of December 21, 2020.
- Starting in early January, the state began supporting faith-based vaccination missions in Palm Beach County. The first mission at Tabernacle Missionary Baptist in West Palm Beach was held on January 16th, which occurred prior to Publix pharmacies being available in the county. To date, 11 faith-based missions have been held in Palm Beach County.
- Additionally, the state allocated vaccine to 24 locations throughout Palm Beach County to ensure access to as many seniors as possible.
- Florida brought the first senior community POD to Palm Beach County on December 30, 2020 – a strategy that has brought vaccines directly to seniors in their community totaling four Senior PODs and 11 churches.
- The state has conducted 11 faith-based missions in Palm Beach County.