Orange County is now seeing COVID-19 infection numbers rivaling the county’s worst ever and at least one major hospital system has gone into alarm mode, leading Mayor Jerry Demings Monday to plead again for people to get vaccinated.
“We are now in crisis mode,” Deming said at his weekly press conference Monday morning.
Demings and Central Florida health officials gathered to point out that the latest surge in new COVID-19 cases being seen now is filling hospitals, almost entirely with unvaccinated people.
And they projected it will get worse. Caseloads of new COVID-19 cases are increasing rapidly, with more than 1,000 new cases confirmed just on Friday in Orange County. The previous week saw 5,356 cases reported, a 45% jump from the previous week. Positive test results now are showing up in the range of 15-20% of people getting tested, as high as had been seen in January.
“The numbers we are seeing today, you will see the numbers of hospitalizations increase in two weeks,” Dr. Raul Pino, Orange County health officer for the Florida Department of Health
Already, AdventHealth — a huge, multi-hospital network across Central Florida — is being stretched toward capacity. Monday morning, hospital officials declared Level Red protocols throughout the system, creating the option of postponing or turning away non-essential care to make room for COVID-19 patients.
Demings, Pino and Dr. Victor Herrera, chief medical officer at AdventHealth, pleaded Monday with residents to get vaccinated immediately. Herrera offered that he and his medical staff are seeing way too many people expressing regrets, as they were being intubated, that they did not get vaccinated.
Herrera and Pino fine-tuned their call to reach pregnant women, saying they are seeing alarming numbers of non-vaccinated pregnant women come in with COVID-19. Many are being hospitalized. Some are being intubated. The doctors urged pregnant women to check with their doctors and follow recommendations to be vaccinated, as a far safer option than risking getting COVID-19.
Their clarion call stands in sharp urgency contrast with that of Gov. Ron DeSantis, who last week made several stops around the state downplaying Florida’s latest COVID-19 outbreak, in many ways the worst in the nation this summer. The Governor told people that vaccines are safe and effective, but stopped short of urging people to get shots. He made it clear Florida would not change any of its current strategies.
“It appears our state is not taking action in a timely manner,” Demings said Monday.
Demings said he is considering once again bucking DeSantis and he may attempt to order another mask mandate in Orange County, despite the Governor’s executive order banning such local mandates. Demings said he and staff were evaluating legal options and public health needs.
“I will not say absolutely we will not do a mandate at this point. As we get more information, as the Mayor of Orange County, as the person who is responsible for our emergency response, I’m going to do everything I can possibly do to keep our residents safe,” Demings said.
“These next 24-48 hours or so will be critical to any decision I would make,” Demings said.