ORLANDO, Fla. – Tourism development tax, or TDT, collections for August show that while COVID-19 rates are declining in Orange County, its economy is still reeling from the pandemic.
“The August collections were the lowest we’ve had in any pre-pandemic August since 2007, however, they remained significantly above where they were at the beginning of the pandemic,” Comptroller Phil Diamond said at the county’s COVID-19 news briefing on Monday.
According to the latest report released by the comptroller’s office, two months after the tax period, the TDT collections for August totaled $16,462,100 — a 184.2% increase from last August. The TDT August amount is $3.2 million less than the 2019 collection during that same month and dipped $8.2 million from July 2021.
Diamond said TDT collections typically drop in August as children return to school and fewer families take vacations, but he also blames the impact of COVID-19 on the lower TDT collections numbers.
“August, as it relates to the pandemic, was the most deadly month we had since the pandemic began. But it also speaks to the fact that, because we had (around) $16 million collected, we remain open for business, and we were able to do so in the safest manner possible,” Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said.
But business is expected to boom with the promise of a lower COVID-19 transmission in the county, according to Demings.
According to the Florida Department of Health, Orange County’s daily COVID-19 positivity rate remains below 5% as of last Friday and the 14-day rolling positivity rate is at 6.04%.
Dr. Raul Pino, of the Florida Department of Health in Orange County, reported that 70% of the county’s population have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose and 65% are fully vaccinated. He urged those who have not completed their COVID-19 vaccination series to do so.
“We have about 14,000 (people who) have not received their second dose,” Pino said. “That second dose is important to complete your series... and then wait about six months to get your boosters.”
He said, of those 65 years and older, 88% have received at least one dose and 80% have received both doses.
Of the population ages 12-17, 66% have received their first dose and 52% are fully vaccinated.
Pino also announced that Orange County is working closely with the Board of Education to develop a pilot program at a local school.
“We are in the process of selecting one school where we will test 10% of the student population weekly... because this will give us a better idea of what asymptomatic cases may be around,” Pino said.
Pino reported a total of 229,673 cases and 2,090 deaths within the county, which includes 45 new deaths reported within the county as of Monday. Last week, the Florida Department of Health reported 25,792 new statewide cases, an average of 3,684 new infections reported per day.
Even as numbers continue to decrease and immunity levels further bolster the community, both Pino and Demings recommend that residents continue practicing COVID-19 safety protocols.
“We continue to encourage individuals when indoors and (in) crowded spaces to wear facial coverings,” Demings said. “In terms of the fatigue, I think that we’re not yet where we need to be. So, I just ask everyone to be persistent, patient in working with us to get to that point.”
County officials are hoping that the Pfizer vaccine will soon be approved and administered for children ages 5-11.
“We just have to hold a little bit longer. We’re almost there. When we vaccinate (ages) 5-12, we’re going to be in very good shape,” Pino said.