Six months later: A look at how the pandemic affected Central Florida

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Tuesday marks exactly six months since Florida’s first confirmed case of COVID-19.

March 22 the major milestones since March 1:

March 1: Florida saw its first two cases of coronavirus on the west coast: A 29-year-old Hillsborough County woman and a 63-year-old Manatee County both tested positive.

March 7: Central Florida saw its first COVID-19 case: A Volusia County woman. By March 21, all Central Florida counties had confirmed cases.

March 15: Universal Studios and Walt Disney World close.

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March 17: Gov. Ron DeSantis orders all bars and nightclubs to close.

March 20: DeSantis tells all restaurants to switch to to-go orders.

March 22: In 21 days, two cases became 1,007 and in that time a dozen people died.

March 24: Orange County issues a stay-at-home order.

March 31: 6,741 cases and 85 deaths were reported.

April 1: DeSantis issues a statewide stay-at-home order.

April 13: Osceola County requires residents to use masks.

April 18: Schools will be virtual until the end of the year.

April 21: DeSantis says the state has flattened the curve.

April 23: More than 1,000,000 people have applied for unemployment.

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May 18: Florida enters phase one of reopening.

June 5: Phase 2 of reopening begins.

June 10: Central Florida starts seeing a spike in cases.

June 20: Orange County issues a mask mandate.

June 26: Bars are ordered to close again.

July 11: Disney World begins a phased reopening with masks being required, but the company lost about $5 billion while closed.

How are we doing now?

Now, thousands of students are back in the classroom trying to hold onto a sense of normalcy.

And looking ahead, there’s a silver lining.

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Case numbers have declined significantly since mid-July, which is when experts say our cases peaked.

“The county is right now in very good shape,” Orange County Health Officer Dr. Raul Pino said.

Central Florida was the first region in our state to see a decline from the July peak, and our numbers now look comparable to what they were in early June.

On Monday, the state reported 1,885 new cases, with a positivity rate of 5.5% if you calculated it including only new cases, and 8% if you include retests. The last time the region saw numbers like this was in mid-June.

“We’ve got enough people doing the right things,” epidemiologist Jason Salemi said. “They’re wearing masks, they’re social distancing and we’re now reaping the benefits of those actions.”

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But the question remains: Will people keep doing the right thing, especially with Labor Day weekend coming up.

“Even though it’s a holiday weekend, I think there’s a nice balance between having fun: Be around people, but do it in outdoor settings,” Salemi said. “Practice social distancing, wear masks when need be, avoid those indoor environments.”

So far, just over 623,000 Floridians have been infected with COVID-19 statewide. That’s 2.9% of the nearly 21.5 million people in the state.

Adam Poulisse,

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.