Orange County officials said Thursday that 1,785 children are among the 30,000 confirmed cases that have been confirmed in the county since March.
And that includes more than 100 infants, and hundreds more children in all age ranges.
Dr. Raul Pino, Orange County health officer from the Florida Department of Health, said Thursday the county’s data show there have been 142 infants confirmed with COVID-19, including a significant number of newborns; 226 children among preschoolers, ages 1-4; 449 elementary school-age children, ages 5-10; 287 middle-school range children, ages 11-13; and 681 high school age children, ages 14-17.
Both he and Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings offered thinly veiled critical remarks Thursday about plans to reopen schools for in-person schooling. Pino indicated he hopes a lot of parents decide to arrange distance education for their children. Demings indicated he hopes the School Board might appeal to Gov. Ron DeSantis to change the statewide directive that schools reopen to in-person education.
Pino said his department will monitor and report children’s cases as the county moves toward reopening the schools.
On Thursday, Orange County reported 25 new COVID-19 deaths, though Pino said at least a dozen of those had happened much earlier. The county also recorded 351 new COVID-19 cases, bringing its total to 30,776. Of those people, 275 have died, most of them in the past two weeks.
“Soon enough we will be able to get more into the weeds with regard to the data,” Pino said of the childhood coronavirus cases. “The idea is to have a baseline before the schools open, so that when the schools open and the students and teachers go back to school, we are able to monitor the pandemic within the school system, so that we have the structure to be able to do that.”
Pino would not speculate about how school reopenings might affect the outbreak.
“I think it depends a lot on the number of children that go to the school,” he said. “We are hopeful that many of the parents will select and have the ability to have school with distant-learning, so that those that really need to be present can be and have the safe environment that they need, as well as the teachers.”
Pino said his department’s epidemiologists are reviewing proposals from the Orange County School Board.
Demings said it is possible but unlikely that he might try to require that schools hold off reopening until the county’s positive test rate falls below 5%. In the past week Orange County’s positive test rate has been running in the range of 6-8% each day. That’s an improvement on the double-digit rates seen through much of July, but still higher than the 2-4% rates seen in much of June before the virus outbreak resurged.
Demings called it unfortunate that the statewide directive for schools to reopen, which he said came from the Governor through Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, “diminished the local counties’ authority to make any decisions in that regard.” (DeSantis has said the decision is all Corcoran’s.)
“But here we have an elected body, the School Board, that is entrusted with making the decisions about the education of the students, our children, through the public school system. So it rests with them. Is it possible? I think it’s possible.
“But I think the school district has the burden in this case of understanding what the data says by which some decisions, or make appeals of the Governor to change the directives that have been put out,” Demings said.