FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - For the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, some of South Florida’s most vulnerable residents began receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, hours before a new holiday curfew in Broward County is set to go into effect.

On Thursday, Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach began administering the vaccine to seniors 75 and older, marking the first time members of the general public have access to the medication.

Patients are able to make an appointment to get the vaccine if they are in the Mount Sinai Network.

Hospital officials said they have a limited supply of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

Mount Sinai became one of the first hospitals in Florida to make the COVID-19 vaccine available to the general public.

“We’re very excited about this moment,” said Mount Sinai Medical Center COO Angel Pallin.

An executive order from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis followed along those same lines.

“For the general population, once the nurses, the doctors and the long-term care facilities are done, is to vaccinate people 65 and up,” DeSantis said.

“We’re also going to be working with the first responders here in the City of Miami Beach and offering it to those folks as well,” said Pallin.

For now, the governor appears to be sidestepping the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations
to include vaccinating essential workers like teachers.

“Frontline workers have got it, Jackson started vaccinating nursing home residents, so we have an end in sight,” said Jackson Health ICU Medical Director Dr. Andrew Pastewski. “We have the ability through proper distancing, staying home, wearing masks to cross this finish line at a sprint instead of limping in with another 100,000 deaths. I just don’t think we’re going to do that, and that’s very frustrating.”

Pastweski said the hospital is now experiencing the third surge of COVID-19 patients.

The latest numbers, he said, are directly related to the way people celebrated Thanksgiving.

“With the upcoming holidays, we are very scared about what we’re about to see,” he said. “Just in the last week, we’ve seen the number of patients who need isolation double, from around 30 to 60, and that’s all directly related to Thanksgiving.”

A curfew in Miami-Dade County has been pushed back to 1 a.m. on Christmas, allowing families to attend midnight Mass and celebrate Nochebuena.

In Broward, a holiday curfew expected to last until Jan. 4 is scheduled to go into effect early Friday morning. The curfew extends from midnight until 5 a.m., but as is the case of Miami-Dade, it is set to begin at 1 a.m. on Friday and on New Year’s Eve.

7News cameras captured passers-by strolling down Las Olas Boulevard, Thursday night.

“When it comes down to it, you want to have all the controls necessary to control the pandemic,” said a man.

“I think, if you just abide by the rules — have a mask, social distance — everything will be fine,” said another man.

The Florida Department of Health reported more than 13,000 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, with 121 additional deaths and a positivity rate of nearly 8%.

Testing sites saw a holiday rush before most closed at noon Thursday. Many plan to reopen Saturday, but health experts plan it could be weeks before they learn how extensive the magnitude of the Christmas surge may be.

“When you see people not wearing masks and going to the parties, it’s frustrating for us, because we’re dying, too, and we don’t want to,” said Pastewski.

Pastewski said people should be hopeful now that the vaccines are rolling out, but that they must push past COVID fatigue.

“To have a vaccine available, to have two and maybe even three this quickly, it’s a medical miracle,” he said. “I get that it’s going to take some time to get to the population. I hope the population is smart enough to take it.”

The United Teachers of Dade sounded off after DeSantis made his decision as to who would get the next doses of the vaccine.

They issued a statement reading in part, “We are disappointed in Governor DeSantis’ decision to not include school personnel, particularly our veteran educators, as part of this second round of vaccines as recommended by the CDC.”

United Teachers of Dade President Karla Hernandez-Mats went on to say, “If the intent is to keep schools open so that students can benefit from in-person learning in a safe environment, then the governor should have listened to the CDC recommendation and made us a priority.”

Those who qualify to receive the COVID-19 vaccine can make an appointment at Mount Sinai Medical Center by calling 305-674-2312. The number is staffed from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday to Friday and from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. For more information, click here.

Even though most COVID-19 testing locations are scheduled to reopen on Saturday, their hours of operation will vary. For more information, click here.

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