Orange County officials growing worried about rising COVID-19

Orange County is seeing rapid rises in new COVID-19 caseloads and testing rates.

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings and other officials expressed alarm Monday about both the rising numbers of the county’s new COVID-19 cases and trends that suggest they are due to more than just an increase in testing.

Demings pleaded with residents to go back to wearing masks and social distancing whenever possible.

“We don’t want to go back to sheltering in place,” he said.

Yet he also cautioned that if the trends continue to the point of rivaling early April when more than 10% of people getting tested for COVID-19 were found to have the disease, he would consider “more significant action.”

“Some of the numbers have not been encouraging for us,” Demings said.

Demings, Dr. Raul Pino, Orange County’s health officer with the Florida Department of Health, and other officials issued the warnings and made the appeal for more careful behavior as the county has seen record numbers of cases emerge in the past several days.

But it’s more than that, Pino cautioned. The county’s positive-test rate has been climbing steadily in June. He said an increase in testing is certainly increasing the number of positive cases being found, but it certainly does not explain the increasing positive-test rate.

During the first week in June, Orange County’s positivity rate was 2.4% and more than 2,300 tests come back positive, according to state Department of Health data. In the second week of June that jumped to 5.4% for 3,200 tests conducted in that the seven-day period.

They also expressed concern for the raw totals of people coming down with the disease. The past three weekly totals for Orange County were 176 cases in one week, 242 cases, and 738 cases. Two days in, this week is on pace to top last week, including 186 cases reported in the 24-hour period of Monday morning into Tuesday morning.

“The numbers are rising fast,” Pino said.

When asked if he agreed with Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ frequently stated assessment that Florida’s rising numbers are due to increased testing, Pino declined to comment about the state, saying he knows only Orange County well. He said increased testing is only a part of the increase in Orange.

“Another part of it is undoubtedly the opening of the social activity. This is a virus that is transmitted by humans. It doesn’t fly. It doesn’t crawl. It doesn’t swim. It doesn’t walk. We take it with us wherever we go,” he said.

State Department of Health data show numbers also are rising fast in neighboring Seminole and Lake counties, though Osceola County, once a hotspot, is not seeing significant increases in recent weeks.

Contact tracing is leading health officials to track many of the cases back to bars and restaurants, Demings and Pino said. And the average age of infected individuals in Orange County has plummeted to 30 years old. Pino said it is his observation that fewer and fewer people, especially younger people, are wearing masks. He said that socializing in bars and restaurants appears to be a factor.

“The numbers you’ve heard Dr. Pino share have been sobering for a number of us, to say the least,” Demings said.

The Mayor said he spoke Monday with a group of health advisors, including hospital officials, seeking advice.

“Essentially what the group said is that we need to reiterate the need for the public to voluntarily comply with the directives and guidelines that have been in place, social distancing and all those other sanitary measures that have been inlace. So we are going to reiterate that,” Demings said.

“They said, secondly, we should likely explore the potential for mandating the wearing of masks for certain businesses,” he continued.

Demings said he was considering the possibility of mandating masks in bars and nightclubs, and was consulting with legal advisors.

He also said that if the positive-test rate climbs into double digits, or if hospitals begin struggling to serve a new surge of patients, he would begin rethinking the reopening of the economy in Orange County. Right now, he said, hospitals have capacity.

He pleaded with residents to not make that necessary.

“I’m just trusting that people will listen. They will hear our plea. We don’t want to go back to sheltering in place. We saw the significant economic impact that had on community, the anxiety of our families as well. We don’t want to go back to that point,” he said. “So if people hear what we are saying, they understand why we are saying it, good will win over evil. People will hear what we are saying. They will do the right thing.”

Scott Powers

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 [email protected].


  • Margaret Ann Blustine

    June 15, 2020 at 11:23 pm

    Trends arent rivaling april. Trends? are in truth new daily cases are new daily cases.period.
    Last 9 days many days higher by far than any day before loose lockdown.DE santis since just before open phase 1 may 4 made sure did lot tests so could say “positivity rate”’s rigged formula.he takes total daily TESTS Takes percent is positive. Truth is what you see is Daily now real new daily cases.a percent based on tests is useless.what’s daily new cases IS alarming daily new cases. 2500 cases 1 day recently.HIGHEST DAILY NEW CASES BEFORE OPEN WAS 1413 APRIL 17.IS RATE OF INCREASE IS ACTUALLY ABT 90 PERCENT ALMOST DOUBLE 100 PERCENT AT 2500 PLUS. MAY 1 REPORTED NEW CASES 1038.VIRUS STILL RISING JUST BEFORE OPEN WAY TOO HIGH.may 22 at 1204. Pls look at dept of health charts see hugeach increase 1317 june 3 and huge daily thereafter.remember de santis opens and closes sites since March as he schedules to adjust for his useless positivity rate fake number.take each 7 day period add cases total divide by 7. That’s numbers is double talk crap.10 percent? Ridiculous.rate truly almost 90 percent see new cases you see new’s horrific and happening.never should opened at high still cases.if he did strict lockdown 8 weeks early March now open safe as virus was stopped.he loose lockdown.all go jog hike bike spread all over bad.what idiot closes businesses let’s all out all over spreading?why it was still over 1000 may 1.of course only number anyone needs know is Daily new cases.people before sick got counted went error miami Herald june 12 article the number… research de santis own numbers proves virus out of control never contained much now not at all.many successful countries and states PROVED ONLY THING STOPS IT IS STRICT ENFORCED LOCKDOWN.loose lockdown ruined economy for nothing as loose lockdown keep virus always spreading. Now it’s on rapid path of total death cases economic ruin as workers get sick as soon as hired everywhere can see santis deflects misleads distorts since the beginning now at worse deadly surging still doing it.use your santis is corrupt.before another week it’s too late.look at graph click on spikes etc write down cases do 7 day averages.will see fla is in free fall of disaster HAPPENING NOW.DON’T WAIT.TRUMP DESANTIS DOWNPLAYING TRUTH SO PEOPLE BECAUSE OF THAT NOT TAKING SERIOUSLY.Don’t blame them.blame de santis and trump for false rosy pictures while disaster is happenig.isn’t people’s’s our lying leaders acting like this disaster is normal times when it’s sinking fla your city.real lockdown or die.

  • OrangeCountyEmployee

    June 16, 2020 at 5:11 am

    I work with Orange County employees who refuse to wear masks or stay any distance from each other. I wear my mask constantly! And I avoid getting close to anyone.

    Demmings should demand County Employees to wear masks. I am afraid I may get covid-19 because of these country employees! I try hard to protect myself as best as I can.

    I am deeply concerned for my own safety working in the County! Please, someone tell Demmings to make this mandatory for all personnel in County buildings!

Comments are closed.


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