ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Now that players from both the MLS and the NBA are at Walt Disney World to resume their respective seasons, their coronavirus testing totals will count toward Orange County’s overall numbers.
Both professional sport agencies have instituted a bubble policy that keeps players away from fans, family members and more. Under the concept, people within the bubble only have contact with others who are also within the bubble.
Dr. Raul Pino from the Florida Department of Health in Orange County said Monday that because those inside the bubble are being tested so often, Orange County could start to notice an increase in daily testing numbers. He hopes that in the future there might be a way to separate results from those within the bubble from the general population.
“So we are looking for a solution if it’s technically feasible, and possible to desgregate those two data, the one for our general population in the county and the one data for what is happening in Disney in the bubble for MLS and NBA, but that could be very difficult,” Pino said.
He elaborated further saying that if the labs the teams are using are also used by other entities it could be “mismatch” cases rather than separating them the way he would like.
“When we get more clarification in the data and if the data change, we will let you know,” Pino said.
As of Monday, Orange County has recorded 18,937 COVID-19 cases since March plus 83 deaths and 564 total hospitalizations. The overall positivity rate for the county is now 10.2%. More than 185,000 tests have been performed to date.
Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said right off the bat Monday that he doesn’t like the way cases are looking lately.
“These numbers, quite frankly are not good for us as a community. It sounds a bit of an alarm to us so we must look at the numbers carefully,” Demings said.
Weeks ago, the mayor said that if the positivity rate hits the double digits talks might have to begin on possibly rolling back some reopenings. He said Monday that the county isn’t at that point yet and he believes what would be a bigger factor in that decision is if the hospitals reach capacity.
“So I don’t think that we are any close to overwhelm the hospitals, our inventory is healthy right now. We had this morning about 1,000 beds in the county available and about 100 of ICU beds available,” Pino said.
He noted that hospitals have the ability to expand capacity and scale back on performing elective procedures if administrators start to sense that capacity could become an issue.
Other possibilities rather than another shut down could include imposing penalties against those who violate the mask mandate and targeting businesses that are connected to small outbreaks.
The problem is, according to Pino, is that because there’s community transmission it’s getting harder and harder to determine where someone acquired the deadly respiratory illness.
“As it becomes larger and larger or more community widespread, it is more difficult to pinpoint where people are acquiring. We actually don’t have right now, that I know, larger outbreaks going on,” Pino said. “So we have a lot of community distribution.”
If hospitals were to be reached, Demings said the Orange County Convention Center was recently visited by the Army Corps of Engineers to determine if it could become a potential overflow site for COVID-19 patients.
In that case, the convention center could house as many as 500 beds for Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Lake county residents.
With the cases continuing to rise, leaders said the message to residents remains to wear a mask, practice social distancing and take all possible measures to stop the spread of COVID-19.