Infant among recently reported COVID-19 deaths, Orange County leaders say

Gov. DeSantis threatens Orange County with millions in fines over vaccine mandate for county employees

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Orange County leaders announced 56 additional deaths from COVID-19 which had been reported to the county since Thursday, including the death of a baby younger than 1.

“The age range for (the) death(s) was 0 to 95 — that means someone younger than one. And we will not give any details about that individual at all, because it’s just one single case and could be easily identified,” Dr. Raul Pino from the Florida Department of Health in Orange County said during Monday’s news conference.

The doctor later added that this was the county’s first pediatric death.

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Pino said of those 56 deaths reported since last week, one was from May, 10 were from July and one from September with the remaining 44 taking place during August, bringing the number of COVID-19 deaths from last month to 337. Overall, the county has seen 1,780 deaths since the state began tracking coronavirus deaths in March 2020, according to the Pino.

County leaders also reported a decrease in the overall number of new COVID-19 cases in the county. Pino reported the 14-day rolling positivity rate had dropped to 13.3%. Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings added that the positivity rate is still too high.

“But the good news is that’s down from the 20% to 21% that we saw not too long ago,” Demings said.

Pino said that the county peaked in its number of new COVID-19 cases about two weeks ago. He credited the various mitigation efforts taken by the county — the mayor’s state of emergency, calling on citizens to wear masks and encouraging private businesses to require them of customers and the school district issuing a mask mandate for students.

“It’s like layered approach to this (surge) and also vaccinations, they get a bump, we increased 3% from one month to the next month,” Pino said.

The county reports that at least 71% of the eligible population has now received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Demings added that number includes 72% of all Orange County employees.

“That includes 80% of nonunion employees and 63% of union employees,” Demings said. “Of course, towards the end of last week, President Biden announced additional directives and mandates and recommendations here within the United States, and there were some mandates and requirements for large employers with 100 or more employees as well as some of the healthcare organizations, there are certain mandates. We intend to follow whatever law for directives are put in place in that regard.”

However, as Demings held his news conference, Gov. Ron DeSantis was also speaking in Alachua County. During that news conference, DeSantis said that Florida counties requiring vaccinations for employees “will face a $5,000 fine for every single violation.”

“If a government agency in the state of Florida forces a vaccine as a condition to employment that violates Florida law,” DeSantis said. “If you look at places here in Alachua County, like the city of Gainesville — I mean, that’s millions and millions of dollars potentially in fines. Orange County many, many more than that.”

When asked about the governor’s threats, Demings said he had not yet heard about DeSantis’ plan for fining local governments.

“We will look at whatever directive the governor is putting out and we’ll consider our legal options,” Demings said.

About the Author:

Thomas Mates is a digital storyteller for News 6 and 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.