Omicron cases remain mild, but Orange County officials worry about economic fallout – WFTV

Date: 2022-01-05 10:02:25

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Omicron’s surge shows no signs of peaking, Orange County and health department officials reported Tuesday as they worried over the possible impact on the area’s economy.

During the administration’s first COVID-19 briefing of the year, officials laid out the number of records set by the wave few expected as the area emerged from dealing with the delta variant.

One in three tests came back positive this past week, a rate that doubled from the week before. Florida’s case rate skyrocketed 744%.

READ: Too many faculty COVID-19 cases could shut down schools, Orange County school board chair says

“COVID is everywhere,” Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings summed up.

Still, there were signs that this surge is different from previous battles. Hospitalization data was barely mentioned, even though the Florida Hospital Association reported 1,324 new inpatients, suggesting many of the reported cases continued to be mild.

A state health worker said 90% of the positive tests in the county were in unvaccinated people, a staggeringly high rate considering three quarters of the county has gotten at least one shot.

READ: With COVID-19 case numbers exploding, some fear a repeat of 2020. Here’s what the numbers say.

Officials did warn that they worried about the number of cases. Too many, and the wiggle room brought about by the “milder” variant would vanish, especially if those people weren’t vaccinated.

Then, there was the economic factor.

“I’m concerned about the impact the spread is having on our workforce in Central Florida,” Demings said.

READ: Brevard County students, teachers prepare to head back to class amid ‘biggest wave’ of COVID-19

County Comptroller Phil Diamond said people were canceling their vacation plans to the Orlando area later this winter, and some conventions had also been scratched. The losses mean fewer tourism development tax dollars (TDT) and the need to dip further into reserves. Diamond said 75% of the TDT slush fund had been consumed since March 2020.

“I hope this year, we can finally quit talking about COVID,” he said.

His remarks were followed by Orange County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Barbara Jenkins, who warned the high number of teacher callouts might force school closures if staff continue to get sick.

READ: COVID-19 scams: How to prevent buying fake COVID tests

Many families still recovering from job losses would not be able to afford to take time off work.

“If you feel sick, if you feel symptomatic, stay home,” she said.

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