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Expanding COVID-19 Vaccine Eligibility, Combating Litter On Beaches And A Veteran Journalist Retires

People lined up to get a COVID-19 vaccine at Miami Dade College North Campus on March 6, 2021
Verónica Zaragovia
People lined up to get a COVID-19 vaccine at Miami Dade College North Campus on March 6, 2021

Starting April 5, all adults in Florida are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. The expansion comes as coronavirus cases are on the rise in the state and variants of the virus continue to spread.

State health officials reported 2,984 new coronavirus cases in South Florida on Thursday and with the floodgates of eligibility opening up, there is some concern about supply.

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WLRN health care reporter Verónica Zaragovia said, in preparation for the expansion of the age eligibility for the vaccine, the state will receive 20% more vaccines next week.

“There will be vaccines for everybody who wants one,” Zaragovia said. “My advice is for people not to panic if they are unable to get a vaccine April 5.”

Frank Rollason, the director of emergency management for Miami-Dade County, said the county gets a limited allotment from the state.

“I have received my allocation list for next week ... and our allocation for us at our county sites did not go up,” Rollason said.

Miami-Dade County hosts three vaccine sites, one at the Homestead Sports Complex, one at Tropical Park and another at Zoo Miami.

Rollason said due to supply constraints, the Miami-Dade Countyvaccine registration website has a backlog. But, he said lack of vaccines isn’t the only obstacle they face when trying to register people for appointments.

“One of our biggest problems is that we call [people registered on the county appointment website] and they don’t answer because they don’t recognize the number that is calling them,” Rollason said. “We end up going down the list, not getting people answering the phone until we get enough that’ll take care of the vaccine that we have.”

As eligibility opens up for all adults, Rollason said efforts are underway to educate young adults of the importance of getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

He said in order to combat vaccine hesitancy, the county has teams doing community outreach and trying to dispel misinformation about the vaccines.

“We’re hoping that the interest is there, and that people 18 and up try to access the vaccine,” Rollason said.

Keeping Beaches Clean

Florida is known for its beautiful, white sandy beaches. Every year, millions of people come from all over the world to enjoy them but, unfortunately, they don’t always clean up after themselves.

With images of Broward and Miami-Dade counties overrun with spring breakers, environmental advocates have been sounding the alarm about the increased waste left behind. But tourists aren’t the only ones leaving trash behind.

Cities have crews that regularly empty trash bins along beaches but things like plastic bags and bottles, straws, aluminum cans and cigarette butts are routinely left on the sand.

Pandemic waste — surgical masks, gloves, and dirty disinfectant wipes are also making their way on to the sand, into the ocean and along with all the regular trash.

Maria Algarra founded Clean This Beach Up in 2019. It’s a nonprofit organization based in Miami-Dade that regularly hosts beach cleanups. Algarra said that in Miami-Dade, beachgoers aren’t the only reason for trash in the ocean and other waterways.

“The trash that we have, especially here in Miami coming into Biscayne Bay, it's coming in from all types of sources, it's not just street litter,” Algarra said. "It's also from mismanagement, from the partying on islands, it comes not just from spring breakers, it comes from locals too.”

Algarra said her organization picked up about 1,000 pounds of trash on the Picnic Islands in Biscayne Bay on a Monday in early March.

Desiree DiClemente-DiSalvo chairs theSurfrider Foundation chapter in Broward County. She said the best way to combat littering is with education.

“Teaching people to leave the beach cleaner than you found it .It doesn’t matter if it's your trash or not, if you’re there and you see it, pick it up before it ends up in the ocean,” DiClemente-DiSalvo said.

South Florida Journalist Retires After More Than Four Decades in the Business

After 44 years in journalism, the South Florida Sun Sentinel’s editorial page editor Rosemary O’Hara is retiring.

O’Hara worked in newsrooms across Florida including the Tampa Tribune, the Orlando Sentinel and the Miami Herald. She also held editing positions at the Knight-Ridder Washington Bureau, the Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va. and the Cincinnati Enquirer in Ohio.

She joined the Sun Sentinel in 2012 and her last column with the paper was published this week. In it, she spoke about some of her proudest moments and worries for the future of journalism.

Andrea Perdomo is a producer for WLRN News.
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