How strategic partnerships and collaborations helped Sarasota County achieve one of the state’s most successful vaccination programs.
On Feb. 27, 2020, the Sarasota County Emergency Operations Center moved to a Level 3 status in response to the spread
of COVID-19 illness in the community. By the time Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued Executive Order 20-91 mandating all
Florida residents stay at home for 30 days, many steps outlined in that order — including suspension of in-person services at government offices, and closure of all public beaches, libraries and park amenities — had already been put in place by Sarasota County Government.
When the stay-at-home order expired, many county employees
continued to work from home, conducting business via online services,
email, mail and phone to ensure the safety of customers and staff.
Nearly one year later, however, this environment of caution would
create multiple challenges and extraordinary opportunities to serve the
community as vaccine distribution began.
How, for example, do you build a registration system from scratch to
serve more than 400,000 residents? Do you need one major vaccine
clinic or several, and where do you even find room to operate a safe,
socially distanced clinic and then communicate the intricacies of first and
second-dose schedules to a coastal community of this size along
with seasonal visitors?
Vaccine was initially administered at a local hospital and the local health department. Eventbrite, the popular online platform for
purchasing concert tickets, was used to schedule appointments.
As vaccine distribution ramped up, the health department moved from Eventbrite to an emergency notifi cation platform called
Everbridge for appointment scheduling. County offi cials moved the entire clinic network into a single, leased space in a nearly
empty mid-county shopping mall that could accommodate a few thousand people a day and the related vehicular traffic.
Upon a formal request by the health department, Sarasota County’s Communications Department joined the effort to coordinate community outreach, using multiple strategies and tools:
Every action focused on reducing confusion, and the county received many expressions of gratitude for the assistance.
One daughter in California seeking help for her parents was “pleasantly shocked at the immediacy and thoroughness of the
response; it was efficient, clear, immediate, and personable.” Another responded, “…you guys are making life easier for those of us trying so hard to help our parents. I really think you folks are the heroes in all of this.”
Perhaps most impressive was that in compliance with COVID safety guidelines, the entire operation took place in a “virtual workspace.”
Employees participated simultaneously from home offices, the mall clinic, the Emergency Operations Center, the health department and the county’s Administration Center.
The state DOH called Sarasota County the model for COVID-19 vaccine registration, clinic operations, communications and overall customer service.
Surrounding local governments approached the media team for advice supporting their clinics and community outreach, and signage developed by the Sarasota County Communications Department appeared in the background of press events by Florida’s governor after the state Department of Health requested permission to adapt county designs for regional use.
In 120 days, more than 230,000 people (60 percent of the population) were vaccinated — the second highest in the state.
Sarasota County Communications Department continues provide web and social media support of DOH, visit here for current information.