ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – A state of emergency has been declared in Orange County and Orlando as the mayors announced that an Orlando-area resident died in California after being diagnosed with the coronavirus.
Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said we’re living in unprecedented times and government officials are working to respond quickly and efficiently as the situation involving COVID-19 continues to evolve.
“We are living in some unusual times that call for unusual measures. Within the past 24 hours, a lot has changed in the world around us," Demings said. “We are now at a critical point in the coronavirus threat.”
In addition to activating emergency operation centers, all city and county events with more than 250 people will be canceled or postponed. That includes the farmer’s market at Lake Eola and the plant sale scheduled for this weekend at Leu Gardens.
Events involving elderly residents have also been canceled, although senior centers remain open for other services.
Health officials couldn’t provide too many details about the death of the Orange County resident in California, but did say that person traveled to South Korea and was flagged as needing treatment after arriving at an airport in California.
Thus far, cases have been identified in Seminole and Volusia counties, but none in Orange County.
Demings said that based on information he has received, he’s cautiously optimistic that the coronavirus situation will improve or even be over in six to eight weeks.
Already, Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando have announced closures. Demings and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said the closures and postponements are in hopes of preventing the further spread of COVID-19.
“We’re all in this together, we have to work together, we have to coordinate,” Dyer said.
Given the closures, local leaders acknowledged that hourly workers and others in the entertainment industry will likely be suffering a financial burden. His plan is to leverage tax dollars to help those people.
Demings estimated the current financial impact on the region as $300 million and chances are, it will only continue to swell.
In addition to covering coughs, washing hands and social distancing, local leaders also asked that residents look out for those who are most at risk of contracting the respiratory illness, meaning the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.
Dr. Raul Pino, from the Florida Department of Health in Orange County, said it’s not possible to test every single person for coronavirus because that would deplete the current resources.
Instead, health officials are working to prioritize testing for those who need it most.
Right now, he said he has 50 sample collection kits in his possession but there are plans to order thousands more.
“If anyone needs to be tested, they will be tested,” Pino said, noting that there’s a different between wanting testing and needing testing.
Samples are being taken from about four or five people per day in Orange County currently, according to Pino.