Seminole County prepares for the worst, hopes for the best as storm approaches Florida

News conference can be viewed below

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – Seminole County leaders held a news conference Wednesday to discuss updates on the coronavirus as well as storm preparedness as a tropical disturbance makes its way toward the Florida coast.

On Wednesday, Seminole County residents were able to pick up sandbags at the Boombah Seminole County Sports Complex on East Lake Mary Boulevard in Sanford. Sandbag distribution will run daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Potential Tropical Cyclone Nine approaches at a time when cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in Seminole County.

[MORE: Florida reports more than 200 COVID-19 deaths, setting new single-day record | TROPICS: System expected to become Isaias on path toward Florida]

According to the Florida Department of Health, Seminole County has had a total of 6,333 positive cases of the coronavirus since March 1.

“I am sorry to report the fatality count has doubled in the last two weeks today (in) Seminole County,” Alan Harris said.

The total number of deaths in Seminole County has now reached 72.

“Our current positivity rate for testing here in Seminole County is at 10.12%, which is above the target range,” Harris added.

The approaching storm offers a challenge most counties have been preparing for: offering places to shelter while also promoting social distancing during the pandemic.

According to officials, masks and physical distancing will be required inside the shelters.

News 6 asked Harris how many individuals, with COVID-19 at this particular point, are going to have to go into a shelter.

“Less than 10%, Harris replied. “We are in the process right now -- calling the individuals, we still have some calls waiting to come back so it’s well under 10%, more like 3-5%.”

Harris urged Seminole County residents to prepare now by gathering flashlights and nonperishable foods instead of waiting until the last moment and rushing to the store.

“We ask that because we saw what happened in COVID. People went out to get toilet paper, they went out to get the basic needs, just some cleaning solutions, and the shelves were empty. We’ve seen that in hurricanes, over and over and over again,” Harris explained.

According to Harris, purchasing supplies in advance allows suppliers a chance to rebound and provide the products for others who were unable to get the items before.

Seminole County officials also announced it is reopening its online portal for residents and small business owners to apply for federal CARES Act funds to help make ends meet.

Chairman Jay Zembower said the county has $7 million set aside for residents. Families who lost their jobs or had a reduction in work hours because of the pandemic can apply for up to $5,000 to help pay for their utilities, rent or mortgage.

"The whole hope is to give you a bridge in the gap from your unemployment or your loss of employment until you find additional work," Zembower said.

Small business owners can also apply for grants worth $5,000 to $15,000, depending on the size of the company. Seminole County has not announced when the applications will be open for either program.

To rewatch the news conference in Seminole County, click or tap the video below.

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