Orange County investigating possible coronavirus ‘superspreader’ events

Leading doctor reminds residents to take precautions

Seminar Kibir, health lab technician prepares chemicals to process analysis of some nasal swab samples to test for COVID-19 at the Hospital of Argenteuil, north of Paris, Friday Sept. 25, 2020. France's health agency announced Thursday evening that the country has had 52 new deaths and has detected over 16,000 new cases of coronavirus in 24 hours. (AP Photo/Francois Mori) (Francois Mori, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Orange County’s leading doctor says two possible coronavirus superspreader events — one with 20-plus cases potentially connected to it — are being investigated locally.

Dr. Raul Pino from the Florida Department of Health in Orange County couldn’t provide exact details on the investigations as he spoke Monday but he said he hopes to have more information at a later date once experts determine what exactly happened in those two cases.

A superspreader event involves the congregation of 10 or more people without proper mitigation measures in place, such as masks and social distancing, and as a result, multiple people at that event are infected, according to Pino.

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“We are not 100% sure but we are looking to our data. We think that we have detected a couple of events supespreading in the last week and as soon as we have all the tracking information in place, we will display the data for you,” Pino said.

He added more should be known later next week.

He said of the two events, one is believed to have at least 20 COVID-19 cases connected to it while the scope of the other is unknown at this point.

While Orange County’s coronavirus numbers have been improving with last week seeing a negative growth of 29%, Pino warned that residents still need to be mindful that the deadly respiratory illness hasn’t stopped claiming lives.

He cautioned against throwing parties or having large gatherings without safety measures in place.

“The idea is that in closer spaces, the transmission of the virus increases and if you are not observing any of the guidance that was given before with regard to washing your hands, wearing your mask and watching distance, you are going to create conditions that will favor the transmission of the virus and that can be deadly. As we know, we have 443 people in our county who have died,” Pino said.

Pino also said they’re seeing children infecting their parents and grandparents in the home, although he clarified that those children are not necessarily being infected on campuses and school reopenings are going well thus far.

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said now that the governor has ordered the state to enter phase three of reopening, it’s up to local governments and business owners to make sure that establishments are safe.

“I think one of the things that businesses can do is mandate the wearing of facial coverings, they could still make the decision to socially distance their patrons. So does the government need to tell you to do that in a public health crisis? I don’t think so,” Demings said.

As Florida continued to ease into the final stage of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ reopening plan, the health department reported another 738 new cases of the coronavirus Monday.

The mayor once again expressed frustration about the lack of communication about the statewide executive order. He said he’s still struggling to get answers from the governor’s office.

“My concern by going to phase three without clear communication, it may suggest that things have returned to pre-COVID-19 conditions and they have not,” Demings said. “My concern is that if we become too complacent, we’re going to see a third wave or surge in new cases in our community. Today we do not have a vaccination or a cure for the virus and the virus is still in our community.”

Pino said if the relaxation of restrictions leads to an increase in cases, we may not see that reflected in the data for some time. As restaurants and bars increase their capacity, Pino said the emphasis should remain on learning to function in a way that will reduce the risk of transmission.

“It is hard to say when we will see an increase. We have not seen it yet, I can tell you that much,” Pino said.

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