COVID-19 case increase tied to Thanksgiving but --so far-- not in long-term care facilities in Orange County

Dr. Raul Pino says assisted-living facilities need to hold on a little longer for a vaccine

For the first time since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the Heritage Creekside assisted living facility within the Good Samaritan Society in Osceola County began allowing visitors into the long-term care facility this week. (WKMG)

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Florida is now seeing COVID-19 cases connected to Thanksgiving gatherings held more than two weeks ago but fortunately not in the most vulnerable populations, according to Orange County’s leading health official.

Last week, Orange County experienced a 17% increase in new cases, according to Dr. Raul Pino, with the Florida Department of Health- Orange County.

“I think that we are experiencing a bump, from the holiday, the Thanksgiving holiday,” Pino said providing an update Thursday. “Yesterday, before the 6th, we had 550 cases, the 7th we have 563 cases. The 8th we have 774 new cases, and yesterday we have 659 cases. So we have experienced an increase.”

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Pino said most new transmissions are happening in multigenerational households where people are not wearing masks.

Pino said no one should be alarmed by the fluctuating death numbers reflected on the Department of Health virus dashboard. He said 29 additional deaths were recently reassigned to Orange County. Those deaths are from the past four months, including 22 in November.

Orange County also reassigned some deaths to Seminole County, explaining another change.

Pino said because of delays in the information reported to the DOH it’s hard to put the virus into perspective.

“Sometimes when you get these delayed data it makes it complicated to have a full picture of what is happening in real-time,” Pino said, adding the county is not seeing a significant increase in deaths.

The leading health official did provide some good news.

Pino said while hospitalizations are increasing a little bit local hospitals have plenty of capacity. There are about 1,000 empty beds in Orange County as of Thursday night.

“We continue to have a healthy inventory of ventilators, and only 28 are in working use for COVID-19,” Pino said, meaning only 28 people are using ventilators for COVID-19 in the county.

Additionally, the county is not seeing a rise in new cases spreading to more vulnerable populations at assisted living or long-term care facilities. He said he hopes this remains the case until a vaccine can be distributed to these facilities. Pino estimated the vaccine could arrive in Orange County as soon as Dec. 14.

Orange County Public Safety Director Danny Banks said the county is ready to administer the shots as soon as they arrive. The county is set to receive 170,000 shots of the Pfizer vaccine, which requires two shots.

On Thursday, a U.S. government advisory panel has endorsed Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine, in a major step toward an epic vaccination campaign that could finally conquer the outbreak.

The Food and Drug Administration is expected to follow the recommendation issued Thursday by its expert advisers. A final FDA decision is expected within days. Millions of shots would then ship to begin vaccinating health care workers and nursing home residents. Widespread access to the general public is not expected until the spring.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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