‘It’s still not what it should be:’ Orange County mayor frustrated with state over vaccine communications

Orange County vaccinations not affected by winter storms

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings expressed some ongoing frustration with the state and its handling of vaccine distribution during a news briefing on Thursday.

“When decisions have been made at the state level, sometimes I felt frustrated because I did not feel that we were, at the local level, of being readily communicated with,” Demings said. “I have seen improvement in that regard but, in all honesty, it’s still not what it should be.”

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Despite those issues, Demings touted the county’s vaccination efforts. He said 44.9% of Orange County’s senior citizens have been vaccinated. In all 111,966 people living in Orange County have been vaccinated. However, Demings was also quick to point out that there is still a way to go when it comes to vaccinating the total population of the county.

“The converse of that is 92.5% of our population remains to be inoculated,” Demings said.

Orange County’s online vaccine appointment portal is set to reopen on Feb. 22 at 9 a.m. for the Orange County Convention Center site. The portal can be found at ocfl.net/vaccine.

The mayor also talked about the county’s eviction diversion program, which is set to close at 6 p.m. on Friday.

“Since our COVID-19 eviction diversion program launched six months ago, we have provided more than $11.2. million in assistance,” Demings said. “As of about midday today, 3,571 different individuals or households had benefited from our existing eviction diversion program.”

On March 1, Orange County will launch a new emergency rental assistance program. The county’s website describes this program as “an income-based program aimed at helping Orange County’s most vulnerable tenants who are in imminent danger of eviction due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The program is set to distribute $33.4 million of federal funds to assist people unable to pay their rent.

Dr. Raul Pino from the Florida Department of Health in Orange County also spoke during the briefing. He stated that no vaccine doses that were set for use in Orange County have been delayed because of the winter weather gripping much of the nation.

“We were not directly affected by the weather,” Pino said.

The doctor added that a thousand doses that were supposed to be stored in Orange County could not be delivered. Pino said those doses would have been used in other areas that may not have the capacity to refrigerate them.

Pino also addressed the increasing number of cases of the more contagious U.K. COVID-19 variant, B.1.1.7.

“We have 14 that are have been identified. They are all the U.K. variant and the ages range from 15 to 61 with a median age of 39,” Pino said, adding that there have been no deaths or hospitalizations among those infected with the variant.

About the Author:

Thomas Mates is a digital storyteller for News 6 and ClickOrlando.com. He also produces the podcast Florida Foodie. Thomas is originally from Northeastern Pennsylvania and worked in Portland, Oregon before moving to Central Florida in August 2018. He graduated from Temple University with a degree in Journalism in 2010.