Orange County mayor reflects on 20 months of leading county through COVID-19 pandemic

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — There’s been some concern among doctors that COVID-19 cases could rise again as people gather with family and friends for the holidays.

Channel 9 anchor Christian Bruey sat down one-on-one with Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, and asked if there are plans in place to address another rise in cases.

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“If, God forbid, we see another spike, because we are seeing that other places, what else are you doing now?” Bruey asked the mayor.

“Well, we have the benefit of our experience over the last 20 months and we know how to adjust — we’re very nimble,” Demings said. “We have a great team of county workers here who are well experienced now. We assembled a Super Bowl team, if you will, when I came here to Orange County government as the county mayor, I wanted the best and the brightest individuals.”

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That team included multiple doctors.

“I primarily leaned on the healthcare experts,” Demings said. “We certainly received a lot of counsel from people like Dr. Raul Pino with the Florida Department of Health in Orange County. But we had internal physicians and experts here within Orange County government.”

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As well as other local experts.

“And then we had a daily executive policy group call of local experts through various disciplines who came together on a regular basis to give input and offer solutions to what we were experiencing that was unique to our area,” Demings said. “For months, that executive policy group conference call occurred every single day, seven days a week.”

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“What were the things that would keep you up at night, the decisions that at times were difficult to make that you did make?” Bruey asked.

“The primary focus, I think, in a crisis is the preservation of human life,” Demings said. “For me, it was all about making certain that the decisions that I made would result in the reduction of the lethality of the crisis that we were dealing with. What kept me up sometimes was not knowing if we could convince people to even protect themselves from a known enemy, in this case, COVID-19.”

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Bruey also spoke with the mayor about his family. Two of his sons are Orange County firefighters, so Bruey asked the mayor if their jobs have had an effect on the debate over vaccine mandates among county employees.

You can hear that part of the story on Thursday on Eyewitness News This Morning, starting at 4:30 a.m.

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Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson, WFTV.com

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.