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Survival of the Fittest? Florida Seniors Forced to Camp Overnight in Cars, Hoping for Vaccine

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As the United States reports record COVID-19 deaths, Florida broke the record for the highest single-day increase in new cases Thursday. Across the state, long lines to get vaccinations against COVID-19 left senior citizens camping in their cars overnight in cold weather, after Governor Ron DeSantis lowered the priority age to 65, 10 years below the CDC recommended age of 75. Those aged 79 and older are reportedly four times as likely to die from COVID. We speak with John and Maria Luisa Schoch, aged 79 and 80, as they enter their second day in line waiting for shots.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! The Quarantine Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

As the United States reported more than 4,000 COVID-19 deaths in one day for the first time on Thursday, Florida broke the record for the highest single-day increase in new cases, with nearly 20,000 new cases reported in one day.

In Daytona Beach, hundreds of senior citizens, who were determined to get vaccinated against COVID-19, have been camping out in their cars overnight in cold weather. They’ve had to scramble to get a place in line for the vaccine, after the Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, issued an executive order, defying the CDC and giving priority to not those over 75, but those over 65 — 10 years lower than the CDC recommended age — meaning older Floridians have to compete with those who are younger. Those who are 79 years and older are reportedly four times as likely to die from COVID.

So we caught up with a couple who are 79 and 80, John and Maria Luisa Schoch. They were in line for two days, the first night for five hours. They got there at 1:00 in the morning and were turned back. And the second day, it took 19 hours. They arrived at 7:00, got their shot about, oh, 1:00 in the afternoon the next day. John described what happened the first night they tried to get vaccinated.

JOHN SCHOCH: Yeah, the thing was, they were parking in the parkage where there was a line about a mile-and-a-half long, and we were toward the tail end of it, unfortunately. And they only have a thousand vaccines each day. And so, once they filled the parking lot, then they shut the gate off. And we were at the tail end on Monday, so that’s what happened to us.

AMY GOODMAN: So, John and Maria Luisa Schoch came back a second night. At the time we spoke to them, they had been in line for 14 hours. We talked to them just after 9:00 in the morning. They had been there since 7:00 the night before. They had rented a van this time so they could sustain the amount of time. Again, they are 79 and 80 years old. And John described how they made a camp toilet to use during their wait.

JOHN SCHOCH: Well, it made it a little easier to use a five-gallon bucket with a toilet seat, purchased at Dick’s Sporting Goods, set on top. Yeah, it made it a little easier, with a — you know, and then you put a bag in there so, you know, then you can do whatever you want, I guess. But that worked out OK.

AMY GOODMAN: So, you’re hoping to get the shot.

JOHN SCHOCH: Oh, yeah. We’re going to — we’ll be able to get the — we’ll be able to get vaccinated. But it’s just too bad we had to come 14 hours ahead of time to do it. I’m not sure everybody in this parking lot [inaudible] —

AMY GOODMAN: Are there many older people like you, people in your eighties?

JOHN SCHOCH: I’ve seen a number of them, yeah. Yeah, I do.

AMY GOODMAN: Why is the shot important to you, John, to you and Maria Luisa, your wife?

JOHN SCHOCH: Well, we have to protect ourselves and protect others, and it’s part of the whole thing. You know, the more people who can get vaccinated, the sooner we can properly address the pandemic so that we can get back to normal. So, yeah, it’s very important, because we don’t want to come down with this thing, and then it would contribute not to the — if we did, it would be bad for us, and it would be bad for others.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s John Schoch. Again, they are waiting in this massive line — overall, waited for over 24 hours — because the governor dropped the age from 75, what the CDC recommended, to 65. So it’s kind of survival of the fittest out there.

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