‘We’re going to be New York:’ Seminole County officials stress importance of testing as COVID-19 cases surge

County reports more than 100 new cases of COVID-19

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – Leaders in Seminole Couty held a news conference Wednesday to discuss updates amid the rising coronavirus concerns.

Speakers at the news conference included Seminole County Chairman Jay Zembower, Emergency Manager Alan Harris, Florida Department of Health in Seminole Health Officer Donna Walsh and Medical Director Dr. Todd Husty.

Officials explained to residents the number of new cases are quickly rising.

“Just yesterday we had 187 new positive COVID-19 patients in Seminole County 187 -- over 120 already today,” officials said.

Seminole County has been under an executive order for multiple months requiring those with the virus to remain inside the home. According to county leaders, some have chosen to not follow the order.

“There have been some incidences where we called individuals and they have elected not to stay in their homes, they’ve decided to go back to work, they decided to drive around the community go to the grocery store and things like that,” Harris said. “If a COVID positive individual with symptoms is even driving around our community going to stores and things like that -- that’s very, very dangerous.”

Though concern over the virus’ infection rate was a focus of the conference, leaders offered hopeful news about the county’s supply of personal protective equipment.

“The first good thing is that personal protective equipment is coming in relatively stable now. The supply lines have started to rebound. Just this week we’re going to receive pallets of gowns medical gowns,” Harris said. “We have been able to fill N-95 mask orders, gloves, those types of items that have been requested by those long term care facilities, which we know our most vulnerable populations of course are in those facilities.”

MORE: Seminole County ramps up COVID-19 testing as cases rise in Central Florida

As of Wednesday, the Florida Department of Health reported that Seminole County has had 1,754 confirmed cases of COVID-19. There have been 16 COVID-19 deaths in the County.

On Tuesday, 516 patients were tested at Carillon Elementary and 224 were tested at Winter Springs High School, officials said.

Over 950 patients were tested on Monday and Tuesday at Seminole County’s Pop Up Community Test Sites.

In Seminole County, a daily positive rate between 10.3-18.6% has been reported.

“You know, 85% of our cases are less than 60 years of age, 36% of our cases are in their 20s, and about 17% of our cases are in their 30s. So between our 20 and 30-year-olds, that’s over 50% of our cases,” Walsh said.

Officials said with the increase in cases, it’s important to take precautions and to get tested for COVID-19 saying the county is making an etra effort to make it more available.

“We added a testing site on Saturday that one actually ended up selling out within about an hour,” Harris said. “Tomorrow we will launch all the sites for next week, we will have a testing site available every day next week and then some days, we will have multiple testing sites,” Harris said.

County leaders said they are not issuing a face mask mandate because it can't be enforced. Instead, the county rolled out a campaign encouraging everyone to wear face coverings, practice social distancing, and wash their hands.

Dr. Husty said he disagrees and believes face masks should be required. He said he knows it would be hard to enforce, but it could make a difference.

"I am going to argue that we'll then just enforce it with the ones who aren't doing it and then maybe everyone will get the message," he said.

Dr. Husty said there is also still a lot of uncertainty for the next school year. The deadline to register for Seminole County virtual school is July 20. Dr. Husty said he hopes the county will have a better handle on the coronavirus before students return to the classroom.

“I think we have a shot at figuring out what’s happening over the next two to three weeks and we have a shot at flattening this thing out,” Husty said. “If we do that I am a lot more optimistic about August and September.”

To keep up with the latest news on the pandemic, subscribe to News 6′s coronavirus newsletter or go to ClickOrlando.com/coronavirus.

Watch the full news conference below.

About the Authors:

Amanda Castro, a proud UCF alum, joined the News 6 team in November 2015 and was promoted to weekend morning anchor in April 2016. Go Knights!