ORLANDO, Fla. — Orange County recorded 1,052 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday and 960 on Saturday, prompting Mayor Jerry Demings on Monday to declare: “We are now in crisis mode.”
What You Need To Know
- Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings declares the county is 'now in crisis mode'
- He said the COVID-19 rolling 14-day positivity rate hit 14%, up from 4%
- Demings said counties and hospitals are 'seeing alarming numbers' of critically ill
Demings said counties and hospitals throughout Central Florida have been “sounding the alarms... and advising that they were seeing alarming numbers of critically ill individuals entering their hospitals.”
Demings made his comments at a coronavirus news briefing, which included health officials who suggested alarm about recent data.
One public official, Orange County Tax Collector Scott Randolph, is so concerned that he has ordered his staff to get vaccinated, according to our partners at the Orlando Sentinel.
“We’re an agency that just can’t be closed," Randolph told the Sentinel.
Dr. Victor Herrera, chief medical officer at AdventHealth, said the hospital system was approaching an all-time high in terms of COVID-19 cases, "which is stretching our capacity." The hospital's new status of "red" means that some nonurgent procedures might have to be delayed, he said.
Herrera also said the hospital system includes the space, equipment and capacity "to meet the demands of our commuinity," even if coronavirus cases continue to rise.
Herrera noted that 90% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients were unvaccinated, prompting health officials to reiterate the importance of vaccinations.
"This is clearly what has been described as a pandemic of the unvaccinated," Herrera said. "If somebody gets a COVID-19 vaccine, based on what we’ve seen, their chances of being hospitalized are very low, probably way less than 1%."
Health workers commonly hear from patients who need to go into intensive care: "I wish I had the vaccine," Herrera said.
“And as a health care provider, it’s very hard to be providing care and at the same time sensing those feelings of almost regret, that maybe they didn’t make the right choice.”
He appealed especially to pregnant women, noting a higher proportion of unvaccinated expectant mothers admitted to the hospital with COVID-19.
"Some of them are very sick," Herrera said.
AdventHealth doctors say they are now noticing a higher number of pregnant women being admitted with COVID-19, some of those very sick including at least two expecting mothers in intensive care.
“We don’t fully understand if it’s maybe related to the delta variant or what’s happening, but definitely a higher number,” said Herrera.
Herrera also said all of the pregnant women who are in the hospital with COVID were unvaccinated.
Public and health officials' appeals come as the coronavirus Delta variant spreads quickly throughout the region, state and country and as Florida reportedly accounts for 20% of new cases.
“The bottom line is that delta variant cases are on the rise, and residents must do everything possible to protect themselves and their loved ones, which includes getting vaccinated and following CDC health and safety guidelines,” Demings said.
Demings said the county's 14-day rolling positivity rate increased to 13.96%, up from 4.28% a month ago.
Orange County Health Department Director Dr. Raul Pino compared the recent number of new cases to those seen in early January.
"And that’s concerning," he said. "We never thought we would be at this point again."
Almost all of those who tested positive Friday and Saturday were unvaccinated, he said.
Pino especially urged vaccinations among people age 25 to 44 "because that's where we have the highest (coronavirus) number in our community," he said.
A 27-year-old recently died of coronavirus in Orange County, Pino said, and he cautioned about what's ahead.
"We should expect that the number of infections are going to increase, the positivity rate will continue to increase, hospitalizations will continue to increase... " Pino said.
At the same time, July has seen the county's lowest coronavirus-related death rate over the past year, he said, suggesting "a clear indication of the effectiveness of the vaccine."
Of the new cases, Demings said: "These numbers are extraordinary... We are seeing nearly 1,000 new cases in Orange County daily. These are the numbers we saw at the highest peak last year."
The mayor noted that the rise in cases has prompted an increase in demand for coronavirus testing at Orlando's Barnett Park. As a result, he said, that testing site had to close during the early afternoon almost every day last week, prompting county officials to explore the possibility of opening a second testing site.
The Barnett Park site remains open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week. Walgreens and CVS also offer COVID-19 testing, Demings pointed out.
County public and health officials’ appeals for vaccinations mirrored ones they have been making for at least two weeks following a surge in coronavirus cases.
Early this month, Demings recommended that people wear masks, regardless of vaccination status, when in close quarters. That marked nearly an about-face from early last month when he lifted a local state of emergency that aimed to fight the spread of the coronavirus. He said at the time that a new phase of the county’s reopening plan would lift all mask-wearing and physical-distancing requirements in previous emergency executive orders.
"Let’s be clear about this today," Demings said Monday. "Many of you cannot afford to get sick. Many of you do not want to get sick. You don’t want to infect your family members. So the time really is now... for you to step up to the plate and get vaccinated."
Reporter Jeff Allen contributed to this story.