Story at a glance
- Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings criticized Gov. Ron DeSantis’s handling of Florida’s recent COVID-19 surge.
- Demings reinstated a mask mandate for county employees after it recorded 2,500 infections on Monday.
- Some testing sites have wait times as long as five hours, Demings said.
A Florida mayor on Tuesday slammed Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) handling of the state’s recent COVID-19 outbreak, driven by the rapid spread of the omicron variant.
Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings (D) during a press conference said counties have not received funding from the state for COVID-19 testing and questioned why DeSantis has been largely absent as the omicron variant has quickly become the dominant strain in Florida.
“We have not received any assistance from the state of Florida at our testing sites,” he said.
“Our residents, all Florida residents, should be outraged and they should ask the question, 'Where is our state?, Where is our governor?, Where is Ron DeSantis now?'”
DeSantis, who is running for reelection in 2022, has not held a COVID-19 briefing since Dec. 17, when he appeared alongside Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo to promote a monoclonal antibody therapy developed by AstraZeneca.
DeSantis’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
A spokesperson for the Florida Department of Health told the Orlando Sentinel Wednesday that Florida’s COVID-19 containment efforts have shifted from an earlier statewide undertaking to a number of locally led endeavors.
“As of today, as a result of the collaboration between the Department of Health in Orange County and the Orange County government, there are no unmet resource requests — from municipalities, hospitals or private practices,” the spokesperson, Weesam Khoury, wrote in an email.
Demings on Tuesday also reinstated a mask mandate for all county employees working in person and announced the opening of a third county COVID-19 testing site, which health officials have said still won’t meet demand.
“If we opened five sites, the five sites would be full and have two-hour waiting times,” Raul Pino, the director of the Florida Department of Health in Orange County, said Tuesday during the press briefing.
Orange County on Monday administered more than 10,000 COVID-19 tests, finding more than 2,500 infections, Demings said, setting new pandemic records. Some testing sites have wait times as long as 5 hours, he said.
Already, 80 county employees this week have tested positive for the virus, Demings said, up from just 19 last week.
“To protect our employees and those who use our services, they’ll be wearing masks for the foreseeable future,” he said, noting that most of the infections so far have been concentrated in the county’s public safety department.
DeSantis in November signed four bills into law curtailing both mask and vaccine mandates.
Florida last week recorded more than 20,000 new COVID-19 infections in a single day, the most since August, according to Miami Herald calculations of state data. Roughly 63 percent of the state’s population is fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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