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30,000 Apply For Rental Assistance In Orange County; Just 14% Of County Request For PPE Fulfilled By The State: Coronavirus Update for 4/1

Coronavirus case map for Orange County.

Florida case data is updated at approximately 11:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. daily.

Updated 6:30 p.m.

Orange County rental assistance program receives 30,000 applications

Matthew Peddie, WMFE

More than 30,000 people applied for Orange County’s emergency rental assistance program. 

The program, which launched just under two weeks ago, was set up to help 1,500 families pay one month’s rent. 

Mayor Jerry Demings said the program will exceed its one point eight million dollar ($1.8 m) budget. 

“Over thirty thousand applications,” said Demings.

“That just speaks to really the gravity of the need in this community for financial assistance related to this pandemic.”

Demings said the program was designed to be a stop gap for Orange County residents until federal and state funds are available. 

Orange County gets 14% of the personal protective equipment it requested from the state

Orange County has received just 14% of the personal protective equipment it requested from the state. 

The County has requested 700,000 pieces of PPE. 

Yolanda Martinez, director of the County’s Health Services Department, says about one third of that request is for N-95 masks. 

“We do not have to stress the value of the N-95 masks” said Martinez during a media briefing Wednesday afternoon.

“The people on the front lines of this pandemic know the value of this resource to protect their lives, the lives of their families, and the lives of everyone, or maybe- and hopefully not- somebody in this room who might need their help.”

Martinez said the governor’s executive order last month for hospitals and other medical providers to discontinue non emergency procedures was aimed at helping conserve protective equipment, especially masks. 

Nearly 7,000 could die in Florida from COVID-19, according to NIHME model

Florida could see as many as 179 people per day dying from COVID-19 when the pandemic reaches its peak. 

Modeling from the National Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation show the peak of the pandemic hitting in early May. 

“If these models are accurate, which I believe they are, we will have nearly seven thousand deaths in the state of Florida in this time frame,” Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said in a media briefing Wednesday.

“We have data analytics from local, state and national sources that validates that our stay at home order is an appropriate strategy to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus here in our community.”

Demings said 38 out of 53 zipcodes in Orange County have at least one case of coronavirus.

“There are several zipcodes that stand out as our hot spots,” said Demings.

Those zipcodes are:

  • 32801
  • 32822
  • 32839
  • 32837
  • 32824
  • 32828

Demings said he’ll meet with Central Florida hospital executives Friday to talk about how to further slow the spread of coronavirus by focusing on those hot spots. 

“We are planning for what I would call a surgical like strike to stop the spread of COVID-19 here in this community,” said Demings.

Demings said he is pleased with Governor Ron DeSantis’s statewide stay at home order although he says it should have come earlier. 

More than 100 people have died from COVID-19 in Florida

101 Floridians have died from COVID-19, according to the latest figures from the Florida Department of Health.

Florida has a total of 7,773 positive cases. 990 people have been admitted to hospital. 

Orange County has 458 cases, the most in Central Florida. Orange County has 65 hospitalizations from COVID-19, and four people have died. 

Sumter County, home to the sprawling retirement community of The Villages, has 52 confirmed cases. Marion County has 30 confirmed cases.

Updated 1:52 p.m.

Gov. DeSantis Issues Statewide 30-Day Stay-At-Home Order

Abe Aboraya, WMFE

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a statewide stay-at-home order as federal and local pressure mounted for him to abandon the county-by-county approach he had implemented.

DeSantis told reporters Wednesday that he is issuing the order after consulting with President Donald Trump and White House advisers, who have said Americans need to stay home throughout April.

DeSantis’ move came hours after the U.S. surgeon general, Dr. Jerome Adams, said on NBC’s “Today” show that he would tell DeSantis that the federal guidelines for social distancing should be viewed as “a national stay-at-home order.”

Updated 12:15 p.m.

Orange County Convention Center Reaches Capacity After Loosening COVID-19 Testing Restrictions

By Talia Blake, WMFE

The drive-thru testing site at the Orange County Convention Center has reached capacity just three hours after opening.

It was the first day Orange County made it easier to get tested for COVID-19 by loosening restrictions at its drive through testing site at the Orange County Convention Center.

As of Wednesday, anyone with a fever of 99.6 or higher and respiratory symptoms can be tested. There is no longer a requirement that patients also be 65 or older.

Additionally, testing was authorized for people without symptoms who have pre-existing conditions or are first responders and health care workers. Underlying health conditions would include things like asthma or diabetes.

Spokeswoman Lauren Luna earlier in the day said they have nearly hit their daily cap of 250 tests and recommended people get to the site early.

“So, if you get here at 7:30 or 8 a.m., yes, you will be waiting in line and we understand that’s not exciting,” Luna said. “However, we don’t want to hit our 250 max before you’re able to get tested because then you will have waited in that initial line to not be tested that day.”

She said there were already about 100 cars lined up for tests by 8 a.m. Wednesday morning.

“So, regardless of age, they would need to have a fever and respiratory symptoms. It’s both of those combined. They go together hand in hand,” Luna said. “So, that’s a fever of 99.6 or higher and respiratory symptoms. The other caveat would be if they’re a healthcare worker, or a firefighter, or first responder, or police officer etc., they do not need to be symptomatic.”

A Florida National Guard soldier prepares to administer a nasal swab for a local resident at the Orange County Convention Center test site. Photo credit: Sgt. Spencer Rhodes

Updated 11:55 a.m.

Surgeon’s Tweet About His Wife Going Into Isolation Strikes Nerve

By Abe Aboraya, WMFE

A Central Florida surgeon’s tweet about his wife going into isolation for COVID-19 has gone viral.

Dr. Sam Atallah posted a selfie in a surgical mask with his wife behind him on a stretcher.

He has since asked that more people follow social distancing and hygiene guidelines to slow the spread of the virus. The tweet was favorited more than 117,000 thousand times. Atallah is a colorectal surgeon and affiliated faculty member with the UCF College of Medicine.

Updated 6:10 a.m.

Florida case numbers continue to climb

By WMFE staff

Florida has 6,741 coronavirus cases according to the latest numbers from the state department of health. So far, 857 people have been admitted to hospital with COVID-19 and 85 people have died.

Orange County has the most cases in Central Florida, with 363 cases. Fifty six people have been hospitalized and four have died.

Sumter County, home to the sprawling retirement community of The Villages, has 49 cases, and Lake County has 59 cases.

Other Central Florida case counts include:

Osceola – 107 cases, one death
Seminole – 99 cases
Volusia – 75 cases, one death
Polk – 88 cases
Brevard – 34 cases
Marion – 25 cases

Updated 7:47 a.m.

Holland America Cruise Ship Decision Delayed

By Caitie Switalski, WLRN

The Holland America cruise ship with sick passengers on board still has to wait to hear if it will be allowed to dock at Port Everglades this week.

Broward County Commissioners did not make a decision at a meeting Tuesday after hours of questioning port and cruise officials.

Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony told commissioners the cruise line needs to provide more of a plan for the ship’s passengers.

“We are still trying to outline some of the specifics as to what is going to be the best strategy to be put forth to make sure we mitigate any type of harm that will impact our community,” Tony said.

Holland America is a subsidiary of the Carnival Corporation. Carnival’s Chief Maritime Officer William Burke also spoke to the commission:

“We are coming to the place of last resort,” Burke said. “And we will submit the next plan as soon as I can get back and look at it.”

Another cruise ship with sick passengers — the Coral Princess — is on its way to Port Everglades. It is expected to arrive on April 4th.

Updated 5:57 a.m.

Trump: Following Guidelines a Matter of ‘Life and Death’ as 100,000+ Deaths Projected

By Associated Press

President Donald Trump is urging Americans to heed his administration’s guidelines for responding to the coronavirus pandemic, calling it “a matter of life and death.”

The president’s warning on Tuesday came with new projections that there could be 100,000 to 240,000 deaths in the U.S. even if social distancing guidelines are maintained. Public health officials stressed that the number could be less if people bear down on keeping their distance from one another.

The coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, Dr. Deborah Birx, says officials believe the nation can do much better than the grim forecast if everyone takes seriously their role in preventing the spread of disease.

Updated 4:09 p.m.

Orange County Convention Center testing site removing 65+ age requirement

Matthew Peddie, WMFE

Beginning April 1st, there will no longer be an age requirement of 65 and older to get tested for coronavirus at the Orange County Convention Center site.

Orange County announced the update in a tweet. People still have to be showing respiratory symptoms and have a fever 99.6 and higher, or have pre-existing conditions to get a test.

First responders and front line medical workers do not have to be showing symptoms to get a test.

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Abe Aboraya

About Abe Aboraya

Health Reporter

Abe Aboraya started writing for newspapers in High School. After graduating from the University of Central Florida in 2007, he spent a year traveling and working as a freelance reporter for the Seattle Times and the Seattle Weekly, and working for local news websites in the San Francisco Bay area. Most recently Abe ... Read Full Bio »