Orange County mayor swipes at Gov. DeSantis over COVID response, says testing sites are overwhelmed

Mayor discusses surge of COVID cases amid spread of omicron

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said county COVID-19 testing sites have been flooded with demand amid a wave of new infections and blamed a lack of response from Gov. Ron DeSantis, in part, for the sites being overwhelmed.

“We are doing the best that we could do to take care of our residents during this current surge, just like we have been doing throughout this pandemic,” Demings said. “Our residents, all Florida residents, should be outraged and they should ask the question — Now, where’s our state? Where’s our governor? Where is Ron DeSantis now?”

Demings claimed Orange County had not received “any assistance from the state of Florida” at its testing sites.

News 6 has reached out to the governor’s office for a response to the mayor’s comments. The governor’s press secretary directed News 6′s inquiry to the Florida Department of Health, which responded, in part, with the following:

As the mayor chastised the lack the support from the state, he announced the county would be opening a third COVID-19 testing site. The site will be located at South Orange Youth Sports Complex

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The mayor said over 3,000 tests combined were administered at Barnett Park and Econ Soccer Complex on Monday.

“To put the number into perspective, in mid-November we were only doing 300-400 tests daily ... In less than one week, Orange County has now tripled the number of tests being done daily,” he said.

However, Dr. Raul Pino, with the Florida Department of Health in Orange County, said 10,820 COVID-19 tests were administered throughout the county Monday.

“Although that’s a very high number, it is not meeting demand,” Pino said.

The mayor once again stressed the importance of vaccinations to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

“Orange County Health Services also provides free COVID 19 vaccinations at Barnett Park near the Orlando fairgrounds,” Demings said. “Barnett Park is open daily again between the hours of 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and soon we’ll go to 5 p.m.”

In addition to opening the third testing site, Demings announced that more than 80 Orange County employees are positive for COVID-19 — up from only 19 positive cases the previous week.

“I dare say that most of them are public safety workers and of that number, many of them come from our fire department — they are firefighters,” the mayor said.

Earlier this year, the county had a long dispute with the firefighters’ union over a vaccine mandate Demings issued prior to a special legislative session in Tallahassee where lawmakers passed legislation protecting workers against vaccine mandates.

Pino reiterated cases are up among the general population as well. He said that the 14-day rolling positivity rate now sits at 14.6% — up from 3.8% two weeks ago.

He added the age of people getting infected is starting to trend slightly older than in recent weeks.

“The median age is now 73 which is the oldest we have been in a while and also let me mention this to you that the highest number of cases is between 25 and 34 years of age. They are representing about 25% of all cases in the daily count in our county,” Pino said.

Pino also said a large number of county residents have started, but not completed their vaccine sequence.

“We believe that we have about 112,396 as of yesterday that are missing their second dose. Now it could be that the number is not exactly that because someone got a second dose in another state. We may not have that information yet, but the number is very close to that,” Pino said. “And (the number of) residents missing boosters (is) 590,767 as of yesterday and that’s 43% of the eligible population.”

He stressed people should finish their vaccine sequence, get their booster and continue to wear masks and stay socially distanced.

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.