Orange County official urges people to tone down holiday celebrations
No one can explain why Raul Pino was sidelined.

Raul Pino
Greater Orlando tallied 1,202 new coronavirus cases Monday.

Orange County’s top state health officer urged people to not celebrate Christmas like they usually do, warning that while the county’s COVID-19 numbers may not look as bad as in some places, they are following the pattern seen before July’s deadly surge.

“As we approach the holidays it is critical that we keep disciplined,” said Dr. Raul Pino, Orange County health officer for the Florida Department of Health. “Our holidays are not going to be what they were last year. They can’t be. Celebrations cannot be the same. Because that’s the one that we want to have next year.”

“If someone cannot be there [next year,] for whatever reason, it should not be because they died of a preventable disease,” Pino said.

His comments came as he and Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings laid out the latest coronavirus pandemic numbers and program updates for Orange County.

Pino cautioned that the COVID-19 numbers may not look terribly bad compared with other areas, but he warned that the trends look similar to what was seen in the summer before Orange County and Central Florida experienced their worst COVID-19 outbreak in July and early August. He also pointed out that the worst impact, people dying, follows three or four weeks after cases are reported.

“Though this may seem very stable overall, we are seeing increases in our data. They are minor but they are significant. This pandemic explodes. It goes from 50 one day, and the next day you have 200 and the next day you have 800. That’s why it’s important that we adhere to CDC guidelines now,” Pino said.

The latest: Orange County saw 530 new COVID-19 cases tallied in the report released Monday by the Florida Department of Health. Region-wide, greater Orlando saw 1,202 new cases, including 184 in Osceola County, 128 in Seminole County, 118 in Lake County, 110 in Volusia County, and 95 in Brevard County.

Those numbers showed a slight dip from what was seen late last week. Yet the region also saw fewer people tested for the virus over the weekend.

Positive-test rates fell in recent days in Brevard and Volusia counties, but remained pretty constant, or rose, in Lake, Orange, Osceola, and Seminole counties, through Saturday, according to the latest state report.

The region saw just nine new hospital admissions for COVID-19 patients on Sunday, down from an average of more than 30 the previous week or so, according to Monday’s state report. But 15 new deaths were reported, a one-day high for December. Those included nine people reported to have died of the disease in Volusia County.

“As we talk about the numbers, please remember these numbers represent real human beings,” Demings said.

One of the numbers that Pino said is showing a “minor” increase locally, is of COVID-19 patients being moved into intensive care units.

“This is a scary figure I am going to give you: About 50% of the people in ICU beds [with COVID-19] around the country are going to die,” he said.

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].


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