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U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, left. Photo: Octavio Jones/Getty Images. Right, Gov. Ron DeSantis. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fl.) asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate whether Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) violated federal law when he opened a pop-up vaccine distribution site available exclusively to residents in two of Manatee County's wealthiest zip codes.

Why it matters: The former governor sent a letter to acting U.S. Attorney General Monty Wilkinson on Sunday, complaining that DeSantis is selectively creating vaccine distribution sites "to benefit political allies and donors, over the needs of higher risk communities and existing county waitlists."

  • Background: Charges of favoritism were widespread last week after the Bradenton Herald reported that a county commissioner worked secretly with DeSantis' office to make 3,000 vaccinations available to residents in the wealthy, mostly-white neighborhood of Lakewood Ranch.
  • The developer of Lakewood Ranch donated to DeSantis' political campaign.

What they're saying: The writer Stephen King, a Sarasota resident, blasted the governor, tweeting: "It seems possible — likely, even — that Ron DeSantis provided rich, Republican-leaning communities like Lakewood Ranch with priority vaccinations for political gain."

Flashback: DeSantis defended his decision during a press conference at the start of the three-day distribution event last week.

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

But, but, but: "Given the enormous latitude governors have over vaccine distribution," Crist wrote in his letter, "it would be unconscionable for political corruption to trump both fairness and the best medical guidance. These are literally life and death decisions."

  • Crist's office told Axios on Monday that the congressman has not heard back from Wilkinson.

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

Feb 22, 2021 - Axios Tampa Bay

Lessons learned from the Oldsmar water hack

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The FBI urged government agencies and private companies to update their Windows operating systems last week in light of the Oldsmar water hack.

What happened: Investigators have been searching for the person who gained remote access to the control and data systems at the Oldsmar drinking water treatment facility on Feb. 5 and attempted to dangerously increase the amount of lye.

2 hours ago - Health

Biden says it's "not the time to relax" after touring vaccination site

President Biden speaking after visiting a FEMA Covid-19 vaccination facility in Houston on Feb. 26. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said Friday that "it's not the time to relax" coronavirus mitigation efforts and warned that the number of cases and hospitalizations could rise again as new variants of the virus emerge.

Why it matters: Biden, who made the remarks after touring a vaccination site in Houston, echoed CDC director Rochelle Walensky, who said earlier on Friday that while the U.S. has seen a recent drop in cases and hospitalizations, "these declines follow the highest peak we have experienced in the pandemic."

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Most COVID-19 survivors can weather risk of reinfection, study says — "Twindemic" averted as flu reports plummet amid coronavirus crisis
  2. Vaccine: FDA advisory panel endorses J&J COVID vaccine for emergency use — About 20% of U.S. adults have received first vaccine dose, White House says — New data reignites the debate over coronavirus vaccine strategy.
  3. Economy: What's really going on with the labor market.
  4. Local: All adult Minnesotans will likely be eligible for COVID-19 vaccine by summer — Another wealthy Florida community receives special access to COVID-19 vaccine.
  5. Sports: Poll weighs impact of athlete vaccination.