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Coronavirus' Price Tag To Central Florida's Economy: $180M So Far

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings says coronavirus has cost $180 million in economic losses from convention business.
Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings says coronavirus has cost $180 million in economic losses from convention business.

Orange County officials say the coronavirus has cost $180 million in economic damages - and that's with no confirmed cases in the tourism industry's nerve center of Orlando.

That’s just from cancellations of events at the convention center, where events like the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society conference were shut down because of fears from COVID-19.

"We've seen an impact on our local economy that is estimated it could be as high as $180 million dollars at this point," Demings said. "That's the bad news. The good news, however, in all of this is we do not have a case yet. We remain open for business in Orange County."

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said he’s spoken with federal officials about what help might be available at the federal and state level.

“Direct conversations with Sen. Rubio and others from the federal level about the potential federal dollars that may flow, it’s going to be to assist individuals and small businesses," Demings said.

Orange County has no confirmed cases of COVID-19, but officials said they expect positive cases as testing becomes more widely available.

"That being said, we're not too naive to believe that we won't have a case in Orange County," said Danny Banks, Orange County's director of public safety. "We're fortunate, we're very blessed so far that we have not. But we do believe the probability is there that we will get a case. So we're prepared for that likelihood."

Statewide, there are 20 confirmed cases, including two people in Volusia County. Florida is reporting two confirmed deaths from COVID-19, and more than 300 people are being monitored for symptoms.

Meanwhile, private labs in Central Florida can now test for COVID-19. Up until recently, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was the only place that could test for COVID-19.

Seminole County Emergency Manager Alan Harris said before, even when doctors wanted to test a patient, they had to meet the CDC’s strict criteria, which included a history of travel.

Now, private laboratories like Labcorp and Quest Diagnostics can screen for COVID-19. Harris said there are also options for people without insurance to get tested.

“There are at least three nonprofits that offer services in the county and then there is the Florida Department of Health, you can go to your local health department and get seen as well," Harris said.

Harris said he expects that more tests will lead to more positive results. Harris said Seminole County is also taking steps to prevent the spread of coronavirus, including ordering more hand sanitizer stations for libraries, parks and public buildings.

However, they won’t be available until late May at the earliest.