Orange County on mend after sky-high COVID-19 infections and deadly August

·2 min read

Orange County has nearly halved its positivity rate over the past month, officials said Monday, signifying a county on the mend weeks after the deadliest month of the pandemic.

But even still, with a positivity rate of 11.29% over the past two weeks, much improvement is needed to reach the 5% threshold the World Health Organization recommends. Last week also saw a 21% reduction of total infections week over week, according to state data released Friday, with about 4,600 reported. The peak came the week ending Aug. 12, when more than 9,500 infections were reported.

“This is much better than where we were just not too long ago,” Mayor Jerry Demings said. “This validates that our strategy of driving up the rate of vaccinations and increasing testing and also to the returning of wearing facial coverings has worked.”

In August, the rolling positivity rate reached as high as 22% as the death toll for that month has climbed to 388 in the county. The average age of people who have died with the virus over the past two months is 69, said Dr. Raul Pino, the local state health officer.

Vaccination rates continue to trickle higher and are about 72%, Demings said. If they increase further, the delta variant surge could be the last significant spike of the pandemic, he said. A University of South Florida researcher predicted that last month as well.

The county has extended testing sites at Barnett Park, the Econ Soccer Complex and the former Clarcona Elementary School, as well as a vaccination site at Camping World Stadium through the end of October. The three sites are open every day, with the Barnett Park and Clarcona Elementary site open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., while the Econ Soccer Complex closes at 4 p.m. daily.

Pino said to prevent future spikes with holidays from Halloween through New Year’s Day approaching, unvaccinated people have time to roll up their sleeves and protect themselves and family members who they will see in the coming months.

“After all those holidays last year, we experienced a significant increase in the number of cases. What’s different is there was no vaccination at that time, so we’re not expecting that would happen at the same level at all,” Pino said. “If you’re planning to travel, if you’re planning to congregate, if you’re planning to see other family members who may come to visit and you’re not vaccinated, you still have time to be immunized by the holidays.”

shudak@orlandosentinel.com, rygillespie@orlandosentinel.com

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