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Demings says DeSantis should be able to take care of Florida and family

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings speaks
Orange County via YouTube
Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings speaks at press conference on Tuesday afternoon.

A week ago, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said Gov. Ron DeSantis was missing in action as COVID case numbers shot up in the state.

Gov. Ron DeSantis recently defended his lack of public appearances during the omicron surge, saying he was with his wife who is undergoing cancer treatment.

That reason wasn’t good enough for Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings.

“Yes, there are times when our families may be ill and we have to take care of our families. However, I do believe that you can do both,” Demings said Tuesday during a news briefing in Orlando.

Demings said he’d been dealing with the hospitalization of his elderly father and the deaths of family members over the holiday season but had still been able to make public appearances to address COVID-19 and long waits for tests.

A week ago, Demings said the Republican governor was missing in action as COVID case numbers shot up in the state. Demings’ wife, U.S. Rep. Val Demings, is a Democrat running against incumbent Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.

In his COVID update Tuesday, Mayor Demings said lab tests on wastewater samples in Orange County show the omicron variant of the coronavirus rising to new record levels after Christmas.

Demings said the wastewater results are an indication that already sky-high case counts will increase further in the coming days. He urges vaccinations and mask-wearing.

“COVID is everywhere in our community,” he said. “But it does not mean that we ought to go out and drink a COVID concoction to make sure that you get COVID. No, as a community we need to resist.”

Demings says omicron could adversely impact the county workforce. Already, 254 workers are in isolation, including 59 corrections officers and 53 firefighters.

About 1,758 school district employees, including teachers, were reported sick with the virus. About 5% of the teachers called in sick on Tuesday, the first day back after the holiday break.

The district reported about 9,805 student cases, although those numbers include cases reported over the holiday break. About 8,002 were identified in grades K-12.

The district announced Monday that adults must wear facial coverings on campuses, but students are only strongly recommended to mask up.

Some other Florida districts, including Leon and Miami-Dade, are also requiring adults to wear masks. Some private schools, including those in the Archdiocese of Miami, will require masks of students.

Information from WMFE's Joe Byrnes and Danielle Prieur, and the Associated Press was used in this report.

Originally founded in December 2006 as an independent grassroots publication dedicated to coverage of health issues in Florida, Health News Florida was acquired by WUSF Public Media in September 2012.