ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – While Floridians across the state continue following orders to stay home as much as possible to flatten the curve, leaders say the latest numbers show Orange County may have already reached its peak in coronavirus cases.
Orange County Health Officer Dr. Raul Pino said during a news conference Wednesday afternoon that recent data regarding COVID-19 cases in the area looks hopeful that the county may have already seen the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, but that it’s still too soon to scale back on efforts to stop the spread of the virus.
When asked on Wednesday about whether Orange County has seen its peak in COVID-19 cases, Pino had the following two-part answer:
“The short answer is yes," Pino said. "The long answer: I don’t want to be the one who called the curve and then we get a second spike, so we are cautiously optimistic that our curve is looking very well and we already had a peak. Was that the peak? That’s the part that we don’t know.”
Numbers from Orange County health officials show 108 cases were confirmed in Florida residents within the county on April 1. That number continue to decrease, reaching 21 confirmed cases on April 7, before a jump to 69 cases confirmed on April 8. Confirmed cases in Orange County continued to decrease in the days after, with a slight bump from 36 cases on April 11 to 50 cases on April 12. Since then, there has been a steady decline in cases, with only 19 confirmed on April 14.
Pino said the numbers being reflected in the today now are a result of the decisions leaders made weeks ago to have residents stay at home as much as possible. He said if leaders were to scale back the curfew and other measures in place to enforce social distancing, we could see the number of cases in Orange County rise again.
“When the mayors made those decisions two or three weeks ago, we always said the results would be seen in two weeks and this is what we are seeing now: the results of the steps that were taken two or three weeks ago," Pino said. "That’s why we should not -- we should not relax our measures too early, because we will see a spike two or three weeks from now.”
Pino said some places have seen multiple peaks in coronavirus cases and that there is a correlation between multiple-peak places and a lack of commitment to continue with measures like the ones in place in Orange County.
He said, if anything, now should be the time to double down on efforts to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, to make sure another peak is not possible.
“If anything else, we should intensify what we are doing to finally get to the finish line on this," Pino said.
According to the latest numbers, there are 1,073 cases of COVID-19 in Orange County. Eighteen deaths have also been reported, according to the Florida Department of Health.
Pino said the number of confirmed cases is expected to rise next week as a handful of mobile testing sites open up in some of the county’s COVID-19 “hot spots.”
The first site will open Monday at Jay Blanchard Park and four additional sites, at Camping World Stadium, South Econ Community Park, Barnett Park and West Orange Park will open throughout the rest of the week.
Tests are free and anyone over 18 can be tested with or without symptoms, but they need to make an appointment.
[INTERACTIVE MAP: Here’s where to get your drive-thru coronavirus test]
Residents can make an appointment by calling the DOH-Orange’s COVID-19 Call Center at 407-723-5004 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. The center will begin accepting calls on Thursday, county officials said. County leaders said anyone who doesn’t have access to one of the sites but believes they need to be tested can contact the county and try to make special arrangements.
The new locations were selected because they are near areas of the county with high numbers of COVID-19 cases, according to the county. The county is also hoping to test individuals in underserved areas without access to transportation.
Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said during the news conference Wednesday that with each passing day of the pandemic, he feels better about the response and more hopeful that the area will recover sooner rather than later.
More than 22,500 Florida-related cases of coronavirus and nearly 600 deaths have been reported statewide.