Orange County mayor addresses COVID booster plan, potential fines from DeSantis

Mayor Jerry Demings also provides updates on vaccination efforts, mandates

ORLANDO, Fla. – Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings announced Monday that the Pfizer booster shot will be available to eligible county residents at Camping World Stadium starting Tuesday.

Late last week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed booster shots for older or more vulnerable Americans, including people 65 or older, nursing home residents and people with underlying medical conditions.

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The shots are also being recommended for workers in jobs that are considered high-risk for exposure.

All recipients must have received their second Pfizer vaccine dose at least six months ago.

“The number one goal we have is to slow the spread of the dangerous delta variant in our community by taking every precaution possible,” Demings said.

Camping World Stadium will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., open seven days a week.

Testing is available at Barnett Park and Econ Soccer Complex, seven days a week. This past weekend, Orange County Health Services administered 2,665 tests throughout the three sites.

Demings also addressed the recent Florida law, signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis and passed by state lawmakers, which implements a vaccine passport ban. The rule, enforced by the Florida Department of Health, will implement a $5,000 fine per violation, meaning for every person who did not get vaccinated and then was required to, the county, city or employer would be fined $5,000.

“Our legal team, headed by Orange County Attorney Jeff Newton, is reviewing the letter and we’ll be responding this week,” Demings said. “There’s no doubt, we’re gonna’ end up in litigation.”

Demings said that as of Friday, 85% of all Orange County employees have received one or more COVID-19 vaccinations or were granted accommodations. Of that percentage, 94% are non-union employees and 69% are union employees.

At the county’s COVID-19 briefing last week, Demings announced that firefighters who do not comply with the county’s vaccine mandate for its employees will not face termination, but rather will only receive a written reprimand.

“They don’t have to get vaccinated, but we’re going to subject them to every time they report to a shift, they’re going to be tested,” Demings said. “Why are we doing that? To protect the public, to make certain that we are not inadvertently endangering our community for the remainder of this healthcare crisis.”

Since the county’s last briefing on Thursday, 46 additional deaths from COVID-19 were reported within the county, four deaths from August and 42 deaths from September, Demings continued. The 14-day positivity rate has dropped to 9.31%, which brings the county closer to its goal of 5% or less. The total death toll from COVID-19 in Orange County is 1,968.

Dr. Raul Pino, of the Florida Department of Health in Orange County, added that four of the 46 deaths from August and September were associated with residents in assisted living facilities.

“We are getting into a very good position... the numbers are within the range that were were expecting,” Pino said. “We will probably have, maybe, three or four more weeks of higher death rates, following the wave of Delta variant... but the numbers are definitely decreasing.”

About the Authors:

Samantha started at WKMG-TV in September 2020. Before joining the News 6 team, Samantha was a political reporter for The Villages Daily Sun and has had freelance work featured in the Evansville Courier-Press and The Community Paper. When not writing, she enjoys travelling and performing improv comedy.

Lauren Cervantes was born and raised in the Midwest but calls Florida her second home. She joined News 6 in August 2019 as a reporter.