"This year’s accomplishments demonstrate the dedicated and tireless efforts."By Andrea Alvarez

(CW44 News At 10) – Between launching a Covid-19 early treatment network and expediting healthcare worker licensure, 2021 was no walk in the park for health officials. In an effort to further Governor Ron DeSantis’ approach to Covid-19 responses in 2022, the Florida Department of Health is taking a look back at their efforts on improving the health of Floridians.

Back in August, Governor DeSantis tasked the Department of Health with launching a network of state-run monoclonal antibody treatment sites. Within weeks, the DOH says these sites were serving 5,000 patients a day. All in an effort to keep hospital numbers low, alleviating pressure on healthcare workers. In that same time, Florida had 25 monoclonal antibody sites up and running­­­, leading the nation in widespread early COVID-19 treatment availability.

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“At [Johns Hopkins] All Children’s Hospital today, it’s not super bad yet, but given how rapidly we know that this variant is spreading, we expect that we’re going to have to keep an eye on our senses literally day-by-day,” said Dr. Allison Messina, Chief of Infectious Diseases at Johns Hopkinds All Children’s Hospital.

During the first three quarters of 2021, the Division of Medical Quality Assurance issued over 100,000 licenses for health care practitioners to allow for faster processing of applications for health care practitioners responding to COVID-19.

“Going back to over a year ago, pretty much the county was the only business in town, you know, the only place you could get tested, the only place you could get vaccinated. But those services have filtered down and are now available in the local communities,” said Iñaki Rezola, Deputy Director of Hillsborough County Emergency Management.

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The DOH also added the state’s focus on children with specific health care needs. Florida’s Child Protection Team providers referred 100% of children diagnosed with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome to DOH’s Early Steps Program. The program served over 50,000 children, 97% of which received services within 30 days, according to the DOH.

In prioritizing veterans resources, Florida is working to become the most military-friendly state. During the COVID-19 public health emergency, Florida National Guard soldiers and airmen worked alongside public health professionals to maintain testing and vaccination sites. To support mental health initiatives during the COVID-19 response, the DOH launched a campaign including the Florida Veterans Support Line for emotional support and information about community resources. That line is answered primarily by trained veterans.

The DOH also says there was monumental success with the State’s ‘Tobacco Free Florida’ campaign with continued awareness among youth and the e-cigarette prevention campaign running consistently through ads.

The Florida Department of Health is aiming to end the HIV epidemic and Florida remains a national leader in HIV testing. In 2019, the state launched the HIV Self-Test Kit Program and has distributed almost 5,000 test kits, allowing Floridians to learn their HIV status private, at home. Floridians can request a free self-test kit by visiting KnowYourHIVStatus.com.

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“There is a lot of great work being done to advance public health in Florida. This year’s accomplishments demonstrate the dedicated and tireless efforts of Florida Department of Health staff and partners throughout the state,” said Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo.