ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Orange County will soon be back in line with the state guidelines for COVID-19 vaccine eligibility after Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Thursday that all Floridians 40 and older will be able to get vaccinated starting Monday. The order also allows Floridians 18 and older to get vaccinated starting April 5.
“We are pleased to hear that the governor has moved in the direction that we for suggesting, just a week ago,” Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said Thursday during a briefing. “This means that the state and county can now work to get more shots in the arms of those who want it in an effort to achieve our goal of reaching herd immunity, which is approximately 79 or 80% of the general population.”
The Orange County Convention Center began accepting appointments for people 40 and older on Monday following an order from Demings last week, which the governor balked at but did nothing to stop.
Demings said the county’s registration portal for appointments at the convention center would reopen on Monday at 9 a.m. and include appointments available to everyone 40 and older.
Dr. Raul Pino with the Florida Department of Health in Orange County said there will be another 400 appointments available each day next, on top of the 18,000 that were already filled when the portal opened earlier this week.
The mayor went on to tout the county’s vaccination efforts, including the recent push to get the vaccine to homebound seniors.
“For the last three days our Orange County Fire Rescue Team has led a pilot mission alongside state officials to go door-to-door to vaccinate and educate some of our most vulnerable residents,” Demings said. “Since Tuesday of this week, state canvassers and firefighter-paramedics shared crucial vaccine information, with some 6,000 households and vaccinated 250 homebound residents. Primarily, this occurred in the pine hills and Lockhart areas.”
Demings also pointed to the success of the FEMA-backed vaccine site at the Valencia College West Campus in Orlando, which he said has administered more than 55,000 doses.
“Just to give you some feedback, Miami spoke site was doing about 61,000, and we are number two in the state, the second-highest vaccination site for the Valencia site. And that’s good news. We are moving along fairly good pace,” Demings said.
He also announced an extension of the county’s free COVID-19 testing efforts. The testing site at Barnett Park will now remain open through April 30, according to the mayor. It was originally slated to close on March 31.
The site is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and offers both rapid and PCR virus tests.
Demings said part of the reason for this extension was a rise in new cases among people ages 18 to 25.
“So. it is critically important that as soon as these (vaccinations) open for 18 and younger on [April 5] that people get vaccinated,” Pino said.
Pino said that so far 416,241 doses of the vaccine have been administered in Orange County. Of those, 222,401 have been given to county residents over the age of 60 and 125,777 people are completely vaccinated, according to Pino.