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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference on Jan. 6. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) had a hand in setting up a COVID vaccination site exclusively for two of the wealthiest zip codes in Manatee County, according to the Bradenton Herald.

Why it matters: The county has spent weeks trying to convince its 180,000 residents who are 65 and older and have signed up for the state's Vaccine Standby Pool that the selection process is random.

  • Lakewood Ranch is predominantly white and heavily Republican — and developed by Rex Jensen, a DeSantis campaign contributor, per the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
  • The median income in the two zip codes is more than double the county’s overall median income. Both zip codes haven’t seen as many COVID cases as other parts of the county.

What happened: County commissioners expressed shock that their colleague, Vanessa Baugh, had been working with the governor’s office and Jensen to establish the site.

  • "I've been fighting like hell to show people that the lottery is equal and we cannot compromise the system,” Commissioner Reggie Bellamy said.
  • "There is no reason that Gov. DeSantis should be rationing vaccines based on political influence," added Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. "This is troubling and potentially illegal."

The other side: Answering to charges of favoritism, DeSantis threatened to send future pop-up vaccination sites elsewhere.

  • "If Manatee County doesn’t like us doing this, then we are totally fine putting this in counties that want it," he said.

Adding insult to injury: Late Wednesday, the Herald also reported that Baugh created a VIP list of Lakewood Ranch residents she wanted vaccinated, including Jensen, Jensen's father, and herself.

This story first appeared in the Axios Tampa Bay newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.

Go deeper

Updated Feb 17, 2021 - Health

Winter storm causes "widespread delays" of COVID vaccine shipments

Chicago residents dig out their car after a snowstorm coupled with lake-effect snow dumped more than 17 inches of snow in some areas of the city. Photo: Scott Olson via Getty Images

The winter storm sweeping across Texas and much of the U.S. has posed new obstacles to coronavirus vaccination efforts.

Driving the news: Hazardous weather has slowed deliveries from two central distribution hubs for the Southeast. The U.S. government is projecting "widespread delays" in vaccine shipments in the next few days, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) spokesperson told the Washington Post.

Feb 17, 2021 - Health

Testing and tracing "win" sees New Zealand city lockdown end despite COVID cases

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern arrives at a news conference at Parliament in Wellington, New Zealand, New Zealand, on Wednesday. Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Wednesday Auckland's snap lockdown will end at midnight.

Why it matters: Officials confirmed two new COVID-19 community cases Wednesday. Ardern told reporters test results show "we don't have a widespread outbreak, but rather a small chain of transmission," centering around an Auckland high school, "which is manageable."

Feb 17, 2021 - Health

Poll: Teachers who are back in the classroom are comfortable with it

Data: AFT Members School Reopening Survey; Chart: Axios Visuals

Most teachers and school staff who are back in the classroom feel comfortable with the return to in-person classes, according to recent polling from the American Federation of Teachers.

Why it matters: Teachers who are still fully remote said they weren't comfortable with the idea of a return to the classroom — but the teachers who have returned seem to think it's gone just fine.

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