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A heat map produced by Orange County shows the spread of the new coronavirus through the county, as of March 31.

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Jerry Demings warns Orange County residents to brace for much worse in a month

Orange County remains Florida’s most infected outside of Southeast Florida.

Citing a University of Washington COVID-19 computer model that projects thousands of Florida deaths, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings warned the community Wednesday to brace for the worst to come and a peak still a month away.

With the latest updates Wednesday evening from the Florida Department of Health, Orange County has 458 cases, the most of any county in the state outside the huge outbreak in South Florida. That is up from 373 cases reported in Tuesday evenings‘ state report.

Demings said he thinks Orange County and Central Florida are a couple of weeks behind New York City, which is in complete health care crisis, and Miami.

Elsewhere in Central Florida, the latest reports show Osceola County now has 140 cases, up by 30 infected patients since Tuesday; Seminole County, 128 cases, up 25; Lake County, 71 cases, up 5; Volusia County, 93 cases, up 13; and Brevard County 47 up 10.

Demings said he and other officials are “doubling down” urging residents to stay home through the crisis.

He bristled at a question suggesting he or other governments have gone too far in taking away people’s rights, in the name of the coronavirus outbreak.

“We’re going to go up to the line in ensuring that we’re saving people’s lives, we’re saving people from themselves in this case. Whatever we do will be lawfully done. We certainly are sensitive to individual rights … but we are going to do what is necessary to protect the greater good, the greater humanity of this entire community,” Demings said.

“We’re talking some data analytics that will drive our decision-making going forward,” Demings said. “The number of COVID-19 cases in Florida and in Orange County will certainly increase and will increase across the country. The model from The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation shows that our COVID-19 cases will peak somewhere between the end of April and the first part of May.

“When we reach this peak in Florida we will be experiencing more than 170 deaths per day statewide. If these models are accurate, which I believe they are, we will have nearly 7,000 deaths in the state of Florida in this time frame. We have data analytics, from national, state and local sources that validate our stay-at-home order has been an appropriate strategy to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus here in our community,” he said.

“Orlando, we are in this together and together we will get through this,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.

Orange County Health Director Dr. Yolanda Martinez said the county has requested more than 700,000 pieces of personal protective equipment, including N95 masks, from the state for health care workers and first responders, but has received only about 14 percent of that so far.

“The people on the front line of this pandemic know the value of this resource to protect their lives, the lives of their families, and of everyone,” she said.

Both Demings and Dyer applauded Gov. Ron DeSantis’ new order, signed today, to put the entire state under a stay-at-home order. Both also criticized the Governor for not having done so sooner,

“It should have been done earlier,” Demings said.

“I think the Governor came under a lot of pressure to act in the manner that we did 10 days ago,” Dyer said. “I wish that the entire state had been put in a stay-at-home rule back when Orange County, Osceola County implemented it 10 days ago.”

Demings and Dr. Raul Pino, Orange County health director with the Florida Department of Health outlined a new heat map depicting the “hot spots” within Orange County. It shows major outbreaks appearing in areas around downtown Orlando, the neighborhoods around Orlando International Airport, the Hunters Creek and Meadow Woods communities in southern Orange County, and the Oak Ridge neighborhoods in western Orange County.

Of the 53 zip codes in Orange County, 38 have at least one resident with COVID-19.

Through Tuesday, when the map was produced, there were 272 cases in zip codes associated with Orlando, 21 in Winter Park, Windermere 16, Ocoee, 12, Apopka 8, Winter Garden 8, and Maitland 7.

“But do not be deceived by the map, because… that heat map can change daily based upon the spread of the virus,” Demings said.

“When we look across Orange County, there are cases in every corner of the county,” he said.

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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