Orange County

Protesters take to Orange County following mayor’s decision to mandate vaccines for county employees

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — There were a series of tense moments in Orange County Monday afternoon as protesters tried to disrupt Mayor Jerry Demings’ weekly coronavirus press conference.

The protests stemmed from the mayor’s decision to mandate vaccines for county employees.

From the minute they arrived on the steps of Orlando City Hall, protesters from as far away as Brevard and Volusia counties geared up for a fight against mask and vaccine mandates.

READ: Orange County opening second drive-thru COVID-19 testing site

“I believe in herd immunity, I believe in my own immune system, and that’s my choice,” said Deana Osenieks of New Smyrna Beach.

After a few speeches, the protesters march, trying to confront the mayor directly at his weekly news conference.

It was Demings’ first conference since he told county employees they’d be required to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

READ: Coronavirus: Target employees will be required to wear masks in high-risk areas

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However, the protesters were forced to shout from the steps outside.

“We want to see our country back to what it stands for, what the constitution stands for,” said protester Miguel Bonilla. “That’s what we want. That’s it. We don’t want government overreach, period.”

In between those cries to take the country back, the protesters gave many reasons for not wanting the vaccine — some political, and some in disagreement with scientists worldwide, pointing to other options such as hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin.

READ: Orange County businesses contemplate COVID-19 vaccine mandates

So why are some willing to accept treatments that have repeatedly been disproven to work, and not a shot available to them for free?

“Our brains like to sort ... yes, no, good, bad, black, white,” said Kathleen McHugh, a psychologist in Orange County. “And so if we get some information that makes us unsure, sometimes it doesn’t fit into either box, so it goes in the negative box.”

She said the tendency to fight danger, plus a little confirmation bias, is preventing the pro-vaccine messaging from working.

READ: Brevard County offering zoo admission, food vouchers to incentivize COVID-19 vaccine

The anti-vaccine crowd has no trouble finding information that aligns with their beliefs in one way or another.

Fueling their suspicions, Republican politicians increasingly support the vaccine in public.

Protest organizers said they’ll be back on Friday and later this month, when they’re planning a big weekend rally with politicians who support their views.

READ: Florida facing 60% rise in COVID-19 cases driven by unvaccinated patients

Adam Poulisse,

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.