‘HELP US HELP YOU’
First child in Orange County tests positive for coronavirus; Mayor Demings concerned as stay-at-home order starts
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.”
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.