ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Orange County Health Officer Dr. Raul Pino told News 6 he raised concerns over the coronavirus back in February.
An article in the Miami Herald said conversations and preparations were happening, but the public was kept in the dark.
News 6 had the chance to talk to Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer on the subject, while he was at a testing site.
Mayor Dyer was visiting the Northlake Park Community School, a site where residents are able to be testing for the COVID-19 virus.
We asked the Mayor about the Miami Herald article that said back in February Dr. Pino was concerned about COVID-19; the article even said that in an email sent mid-February, Dr. Pino said the Department of Health was monitoring 67 individuals. So we asked why the public was not informed.
Mayor Dyer said he was not aware of Dr. Pino's memo, and said, in part, "you better ask Orange County."
But as a public official, we asked if he felt, at the time, it was important to let people know, and if he had conversations.
Mayor Dyer said, “I think it didn’t ramp up until the NBA and Disney decided to close. The President was discounting it, saying it’s gonna go away.
So it was not at the national level, any sense of urgency, so I don’t think any of the states had any urgency.”
In a conversation News 6 had with Dr. Pino, he said he sent emails expressing concern over COVID-19; even citing one that was sent mid-February to Tallahassee.
“Asking for the ability to declare a State of Emergency in our agency, because, if I do that, if I could’ve done that, it would give me the ability to mobilize people from different programs,” said Dr. Pino.
Mayor Dyer said it wasn’t until big-name organizations started closing, that the alarms were sounded.
"When the NBA shut down its season, and Disney closed, I think everybody became aware, hey this is serious," said Mayor Dyer.
The Mayor added that the city of Orlando acted; he said, “We closed the bars down on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, before any of the stay-at-home orders went into effect.”
Mayor Dyer also said, he believes the city's actions were effective. "We never reached capacity in our hospital system," said Mayor Dyer.
While Orange County's Dr. Pino said he had concerns in February, we wanted to see what other Central Florida counties were experiencing at the time.
Holly Smith with the Volusia County Department of Health office, said in part, “All county health departments are part of an integrated system. We all received the same information at the same time about the disease and frequent updates. DOH-Volusia’s timeline would be similar to Orange County’s. You should see that in the emails.”