The Health Department in Orange County will hold a special vaccination event later this month for Orange County Public School employees 65 years of age and older, officials announced Thursday during a regular update on the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Jan. 24 vaccination event comes after the Orange County School Board wrote to Gov. Ron DeSantis asking for special permission to vaccinate teachers, bus drivers and others concerned about working with pre-existing health conditions.
Vaccinations continue to ramp up in Orange County, where about 3.1% of the population has received a shot so far, or just more than 54,000 people.
Dr. Raul Pino, the state’s top health official in Orange, said the county received a shipment of 16,000 Moderna vaccine dosages Thursday, which will serve as the second shot in the two-shot sequence to provide protection against COVID-19.
Pino, who said his office hasn’t wasted any vaccine doses so far, said the county could soon expand its daily capacity by about 300 appointments per day at the Orange County Convention Center.
In all, more than 702,000 Floridians have received the first shot, and about 72,000 have received both doses.
Amid a weeks-long surge of COVID-19 infections that officials have attributed to holiday gatherings, Pino on Thursday said he’s hopeful the rate of infections could begin decreasing in the coming days.
“I think that what’s happened is everyone has returned home,” Pino said, noting it’s been two weeks since New Year’s Day. “The infections we’re getting now are the ones people are acquiring here.”
Based on analysis, he said the highest rate of positive tests is coming from school-aged children between the ages of 5 and 14, but contact tracing is revealing those infections are occurring outside of school campuses, even though students returned to classrooms last week.
Pino said parents should do their best to control the activities of their children in order to contain the virus spread.
“Although they are not experiencing this disease in the same way older adults do, it’s important, because they serve as a pool where adults can get the infection as well,” he said.
Orange County on Wednesday had its first day since New Years Day with a positivity rate in single digits, with 9.21% of tests resulting in a positive infection, according to a state report. Twenty six new deaths have been reported in the county since Monday.
“That means 26 new families are mourning in our community,” Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said. In total, 823 county residents have lost their lives to the virus.
Demings said Orange County is outperforming other major metros throughout the state when positive caseloads are compared to a county’s population. For example, roughly 6.4% of the county’s population has tested positive for the virus, compared to about 12.8% in Miami-Dade, Demings said.
“So I believe many of the measures we put in place have worked, even though the numbers are climbing. I believe they could be a lot worse than what they are,” Demings said.
In Osceola County, COVID-19 testing won’t be available on Monday, with the site at Valencia College closed until Tuesday in observation of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. On Jan. 25, testing will return to the Florida Department of Health in Osceola County at 1875 Fortune Road.
If you’ve lost someone you loved to COVID-19 and would like to tell their story, contact Stephen Hudak at 407-883-5267 or send an email.