‘HELP US HELP YOU’

First child in Or­ange County tests pos­i­tive for coro­n­avirus; Mayor Dem­ings con­cerned as stay-at-home or­der starts

Orlando Sentinel - - Front Page - By Ryan Gille­spie, Martin E. Co­mas and Stephen Hu­dak

A9-year-old be­came the first child in Or­ange County to test pos­i­tive for the coro­n­avirus and two more lo­cal peo­ple died from the pandemic, county of­fi­cials said Thurs­day. Dr. Raul Pino said the child is one of the new con­firmed lo­cal cases, which now to­tal 110, a num­ber that has dou­bled since Tues­day. The two new deaths re­ported Thurs­day brings the death toll in the county to four.

“We hope that he re­cov­ers fast so that he can re­turn to school when school opens,” Pino said of the child who was di­ag­nosed at an af­ter­noon brief­ing, not­ing he could not pro­vide any more de­tails about the case.

Or­ange County Mayor Jerry Dem­ings ex­pressed con­cern at the brisk pace with which the num­ber of lo­cal cases is ris­ing, one rea­son he said the stay-at-home or­der he put in place ear­lier this week is nec­es­sary.

“Since we last came to you that num­ber has more than dou­bled,” he said of lo­cal in­fec­tions. “This is con­cern­ing to me and it should be con­cern­ing to you.”

But in neigh­bor­ing Semi­nole County, of­fi­cials balked at the need for or­der­ing res­i­dents to stay home.

Semi­nole of­fi­cials said Thurs­day they will not im­pose a stay-ath­ome or­der on res­i­dents, cit­ing a lo­cal drop in po­lice calls and fewer con­firmed cases of the novel coro­n­avirus than Or­ange County.

“It doesn’t make sense to im­pose re­stric­tions on a prob­lem that doesn’t yet ex­ist in our com­mu­nity,” said Semi­nole Sher­iff Dennis Lemma.

He urged res­i­dents to im­pose their own re­stric­tions and min­i­mize their ex­po­sure to peo­ple out­side their house­holds.

Semi­nole com­mis­sion Chair­man Jay Zem­bower added that “a sym­bolic mea­sure by a lo­cal gov­ern­ment” such as a stay-at-home man­date is “not the best tool to use” be­cause it would have so many ex­emp­tions for it to be ef­fec­tive.

On March 12 Semi­nole re­ported its first con­firmed case of coro­n­avirus. By Thurs­day, 14 days later, it had 37 cases.

Pino, of the state health depart­ment in Or­ange County, noted that more cases in the county are the re­sult of com­mu­nity trans­mis­sion — mean­ing lo­cal peo­ple are pass­ing the virus to one an­other — ver­sus the travel-re­lated cases of­fi­cials saw at the start of the pandemic.

He also said the lo­cal health depart­ment has ac­quired enough sup­plies to start to make its own test kits, a process he ex­pected would start on Fri­day.

Pino said he hopes to dou­ble test­ing at the Florida Depart­ment of Health’s Alafaya Trail test­ing site to about 50 a day, as drive through test­ing con­tin­ues at the Or­ange County Con­ven­tion Cen­ter.

Dem­ings said he’s mod­i­fied the ex­ec­u­tive or­der af­ter get­ting more feed­back from businesses, in­clud­ing al­low­ing non-es­sen­tial businesses to op­er­ate at low lev­els to do pay­roll or fa­cil­i­tate work­ing from home. It also now al­lows mo­tor­cy­cle deal­er­ships and re­pair shops to stay open, as well as oth­ers, in­clud­ing pet-board­ing facilities, real-es­tate and in­sur­ance businesses and golf cour­ses. It also al­lows boat­ing, ten­nis, swim­ming and fish­ing — though all county boat ramps are closed.

Dem­ings said it’s crit­i­cal for the pub­lic to com­ply to slow the virus, not­ing of­fi­cials didn’t want to dis­rupt sup­ply chains re­lated to res­i­dents get­ting food or med­i­cal care and im­pact in­dus­tries that sup­port them.

“We’re say­ing to even to the es­sen­tial businesses that may be al­lowed to con­tinue work­ing, we still want them to really work within their busi­ness mod­els to have peo­ple work from home if they can,” Dem­ings said.

“We don’t want peo­ple to really ig­nore the or­der, be­cause quite frankly if we don’t have some com­pli­ance, if we see these num­bers con­tin­u­ing to grow and it gets to a point where it’s out of con­trol, then we’ll have to look at other op­tions here within this com­mu­nity, so we’re ask­ing our pub­lic to help us help you.”

Dyer ap­plauded Osce­ola County, as well as Pinel­las and Hills­bor­ough coun­ties, which all have passed sim­i­lar or­ders in the past two days, not­ing that brings the book­ends of the I-4 cor­ri­dor in lock­step.

“Do­ing this to­gether means we … can slow the spread,” Dyer said. “The stay-at-home or­der is not some­thing that we wanted to do, but it was some­thing we had to do.”

JOE BUR­BANK/OR­LANDO SEN­TINEL

Nor­mally one of the busiest in­ter­sec­tions in down­town Or­lando, Or­ange Av­enue at South Street is all but de­serted on Thurs­day, the day be­fore Mayor Jerry Dem­ings’ stay-at-home or­der goes into ef­fect.

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