- Gov. Ron DeSantis has faced criticism over the COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Florida.
- One wealthy community was vaccinated at an above-average pace in January, the Miami Herald reported.
- A resident, former Gov. Bruce Rauner of Illinois, donated $250,000 to DeSantis a month later.
Nearly every eligible resident of a gated community in the Florida Keys had received coronavirus vaccinations by mid-January as the rest of the state struggled to get doses, the Miami Herald reported.
Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo had vaccinated nearly all of its 65-and-over residents, according to a January 22 email newsletter reviewed by the Herald.
“We are fortunate to have received enough vaccines to ensure both the first and second for those vaccinated,” the newsletter said, going on to acknowledge most of the state was in a very different situation. “At this time, however, the majority of the State has not received an allocation of first doses of vaccines for this week and beyond, and the timing of any subsequent deliveries remains unclear.”
The Herald’s reporting came amid ongoing criticism of Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has been accused of playing favorites with vaccine distribution in Florida by providing doses to wealthy communities.
Residents of Ocean Reef Club include wealthy political donors. High-profile people, including President Joe Biden, stay there when visiting the Keys.
Seventeen Key Largo residents donated to DeSantis, and all of them live in Ocean Reef, according to the Herald. One resident made a hefty donation about a month after the community had been vaccinated.
Bruce Rauner, the Republican former governor of Illinois, donated $250,000 to DeSantis on February 25, the Herald reported.
DeSantis’ office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider.
DeSantis defended his vaccine-distribution plan in February after local officials expressed concern over a vaccination center opening in Manatee County – between Tampa and Fort Myers – that would service ZIP codes that are considered wealthy, white, and conservative. Critics said the plan would bypass the state’s lottery system.
But DeSantis said the area was chosen based on the high concentration of seniors.
“We saw a need. We want to get the numbers up for seniors,” DeSantis said during a news conference on February 17. “If Manatee County doesn’t like us doing this, then we are totally fine with putting this in counties that want it, and we’re totally happy to do that.”
Questions were also raised about at least one other vaccine clinic in an upscale area, CNN reported.
A clinic in Charlotte County, just north of Fort Myers, invited residents from wealthy resort-style neighborhoods to get vaccinated, bypassing other seniors on the county’s waiting list who did not live in those communities, according to CNN.
CNN reported that big donors to DeSantis also lived in those communities that were invited to get vaccinated.