‘The next two weeks are going to be rough:’ Orange County feeling economic pinch amid rising COVID cases

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ORLANDO, Fla. – As the rising number of COVID-19 cases puts pressure on Orange County’s hospitals, the county is also beginning to feel an economic pinch.

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings recounted at least four conferences or conventions that have already canceled their dates at the Orange County Convention Center during Thursday’s COVID-19 response news briefing.

“Between these four conventions alone, we are talking about approximately $43.9 million economic impact on our community,” Demings said.

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This is coming as the county is seeing about one thousand new COVID-19 cases per day. The mayor reports 3,758 new cases since he last spoke on Monday morning.

“The Department of Health reports that yesterday, Wednesday, there were 1,409 new coronavirus cases in Orange County. Ninety-eight percent of these cases were among unvaccinated individuals,” Demings said.

He added that the county’s 14-day rolling positivity rate is now at 20.83% — which means that more than one in every five people tested for COVID-19 in Orange County are infected with the disease.

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Demings did highlight some positive news with the county’s new COVID-19 testing site.

“We are seeing a tremendous response to the opening of our second testing site at the Econ Soccer Complex in East Orange County,” he said. “The site opened on Tuesday morning — 1,030 tests were administered on Tuesday alone. Yesterday, 1,285 tests were given at the Econ site. This has been a huge relief for Barnett Park, which has been overwhelmed by individuals seeking to be tested for COVID-19.”

On Monday, Dr. Raul Pino with the Florida Department of Health in Orange County predicted that the county could see a rise in the number of COVID-19 deaths in the coming weeks.

Pino announced Thursday that the median age for COVID-19 deaths in the county had dropped to 67.

“That means that younger people are dying from these,” Pino said. “And the number of death for last month — that is July 2021 — has increased to 45. The prior month, June, there were only 31. We already have two (deaths) in the month of August.”

Pino predicted an increase in the number of hospitalizations, which he believed would ultimately lead to more deaths.

“The next two weeks are going to be rough,” he said.

He did add that there appeared to be a “deacceleration on the increase in the number of cases” but also said that it was too early to say for sure.

Both Demings and Pino said there has been an increase in the number of vaccinations in the county.

“The numbers are not huge, but they are coming — between 250 to 300 (more), a day. Some days more than others, but we will take any increase that’s positive,” Pino said.

The county says about 63.43% of the eligible population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“We can do better. We’re trying to get up to that 79 to 80%. We need the help of our entire community,” Demings said.

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.