Governor extends vaccine eligibility age to age 50 and up

As of March 22, Floridians ages 50 and up are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.

Gov. Ron DeSantis released a new executive order March 19 that adds all persons ages 50 and older to the list of those eligible to get a vaccination starting on Monday, March 22.

According to Pinellas County officials, the new order will make the vaccine available to about 150,000 more county residents between the ages of 50-59 based on the latest information from the Census Bureau.

This new group can create an account now at www.PatientPortalFL.com or by calling 844-770-8548, and can then check for available appointments. The website and phone number are available 24/7.

Publix, CVS, Winn Dixie, Walmart, and Sam's Club pharmacies are also offering vaccines to the eligible groups, in addition to K-12 teachers of any age as directed by the Federal Retail Pharmacy Partnership. Residents can check each of the pharmacy chain websites for more information. K-12 teachers under 50 can also receive their vaccine at the federally-supported, state-run site at the Tampa Greyhound Track.

The Florida Department of Emergency Management is also running a walk-up vaccination site at The Centre at Palm Harbor (1500 16th St, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. until at least March 27.

Public sites operated by the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas and Pinellas County Government are adding new first dose appointments each week at three sites as additional shipments are received from the state.

The following groups may also continue to schedule appointments through the Patient Portal:

Health care personnel who have direct contract with the public of any age can also continue to schedule appointments through the Patient Portal, as can medically vulnerable individuals with a physician-completed form available at http:// ww11.doh.state.fl.us/comm/_partners/covid19_report_archive/covid-physician-form/EO-21-47-Form.pdf

Identification and proof of eligibility required at all appointments.

Transportation options

PSTA currently offers free bus service to several drop-off locations near vaccine sites within the county. Visit https://www.psta.net/riding-psta/psta-coronavirus-response/ for a route convenient to you.

PSTA buses are limited to 15 passengers plus two mobility device passengers to allow for social distancing. Masks are required for all PSTA riders.

Neighborly offers free rides to adults 60 and over for medical appointments including vaccines. Visit https:// neighborly.org/transportation to register.

The medical appointment must be within 10 miles of your home, and you must book a ride at least two days in advance of the appointment. Anyone needing wheelchair assistance must book at least a week in advance. Rides are available from 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. For more information visit https:// neighborly.org or call 727-573-9444.

The Area Agency on Aging helps Pinellas seniors find free or low-cost local transportation via their Helpline at 1-800-963-5337.

Residents with Medicaid can get a free ride to and from vaccine appointments. Once the shot is scheduled, residents are asked to call their health plan provider to get the name and phone number for the transportation service. If not in a health plan, residents can call the Medicaid help line at 1-877-254-1055 to be connected with a transportation service.

Residents should schedule their ride at least three business days before their appointment and be prepared to provide the following information: full name; Medicaid identification number; addresses of pickup and drop off locations; date of birth; name of health plan (if enrolled in one); date and time of the appointment; and a phone number.

Residents may have someone accompany them if it is medically necessary. Be sure to call the transportation service if an appointment is canceled or rescheduled.

As of March 20, 242,617 people have received one or both doses of the vaccine in Pinellas County. For the latest information on vaccine availability countywide, visit https:// covid19.pinellascounty.org/vaccines.

Local state of emergency extended

Pinellas County has extended its State of Local Emergency for COVID-19 through March 26. The extension was issued March by County Administrator Barry A. Burton by delegated authority from the County Commission. It keeps in effect a County ordinance requiring face coverings within public places, and restaurants and bars to serve only patrons who are seated.

Burton is expected to extend the state of emergency every seven days through at least April 9.

The County Commission will discuss a further extension during its regular meeting on April 13.

For comprehensive information about COVID-19 in Pinellas County, including testing locations and vaccination information, visit https:// covid19.pinellascounty.org.