Orange County

Orange County COVID-19 death rate on the rise, but lower than previous surges, officials say

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — More than 1,400 people have died from COVID-19 in Orange County, and that number is growing by the day due in part to the delta variant.

“It’s spreading very rapidly, which we can see in all of the local and national data,” said epidemiologist Alvina Chu, with the Orange County Health Department.

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Nearly every indicator -- case numbers, hospitalizations, the volume of children testing positive -- shows the current wave of cases is the worst Orange County’s experienced throughout the pandemic.

Health Officer Dr. Raul Pino said thankfully the death rate is down tremendously from what the county saw at the beginning of the year.

“A nightmare is to go back to that, and we could be there in a few weeks if we don’t take action,” Pino said.

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Pino is talking about January, when 229 people died from the virus.

That number dropped every month after vaccinations started until now.

July was the first month we’ve seen an increase in deaths this year, and Pino said more will likely be added as additional death investigations are completed.

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He said deaths tend to lag about 14 days behind an increase in cases, so he’s extremely worried about what the numbers will look like in a few weeks.

“I hope and pray that it’s not at the levels that we have seen before,” Pino said.

Chu said the viral load with the delta variant is 1,000 times higher than the previous forms of COVID-19.

“Basically you produce more cooties, in general, to be able to spread that around,” Chu said.

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For now Chu said the vaccines still provide excellent protection against hospitalization and death. But she said we are at a crossroads.

Chu said with every new infection, there’s a chance for the virus to mutate again.

“Which eventually, if left unchecked, will be able to evade our vaccines or the immunity that we’ve already created,” she said.

Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson,

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.