Dear Orange County Family –
 
We were very fortunate to miss the wrath of Hurricane Laura this past weekend, but it had a severe impact on our gulf coast neighbors on the shores of southern Louisiana. In the spirit of neighbors helping neighbors, some of our Orange County Fire Rescue firefighters have been deployed as part of the Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 4. This team of highly skilled firefighters is helping provide life-saving equipment and resources to impacted areas. We ask that you keep the team and the residents of Louisiana in your thoughts.
 
The neighbors helping neighbors philosophy has also been embraced throughout the past several months as we have all combated the challenges presented by the pandemic. Wearing a face covering, practicing social distancing and adhering to all other safety measures helps protect both you and your neighbor. Our combined efforts are making a difference and our declining positivity rate is proof.
 
Since the beginning of the pandemic, our rolling positivity rate has been 11.6%. Over the past two weeks, our average positivity rate has been 5.5%. This is very encouraging news, but we all should remain cautiously optimistic, especially with public schools and universities recently opening their doors for face-to-face instruction.
 
Census
As you may already know, the COVID-19 pandemic has created challenges for collecting 2020 Census data. The County’s self-response rate is only 61% – a decade ago it was at 73%. The Census data is very important because social service programs, like our COVID-19 Eviction Diversion Program and others, are dependent on an accurate Census count. The count affects amount of funding received over the next decade – so please ensure that you respond.
 
The new deadline to respond to the survey is September 30, 2020. Please take the online survey now at 2020Census.gov.
 
Beyond COVID-19                       
I know this month has been especially challenging with the school year going virtual for many, the end of the fiscal year approaching quickly, a very active hurricane season and the continued obstacles we face with the COVID-19 pandemic. I encourage everyone to make sure you are taking time for yourself and your family. A great way to get out or perhaps change up your routine is participating in Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining month, which kicks off today and runs through October 4. Each participating restaurant offers a special three-course menu, with a portion of the money benefiting Feed the Need Florida, a statewide public and private collaboration led by Orlando nonprofit 4Roots. This program focuses on feeding those who are struggling during the pandemic. Of course, all participating restaurants have several safety measures in place and takeout options are available.
 
Another great way to positively shift your focus is by signing up and training for the Virtual IOA Corporate 5K on November 12 – 15. Lacing up for this fun run will allow you and your team to complete the distance on your own schedule, at your own pace, anywhere you want. Plus, it’s a great way to engage with your coworkers and focus on your health. Be on the lookout for more details soon.
 
You can also get some fresh air and explore nature by checking out one of our natural parks. If you enjoy conquering trails, you should check out the Trail Master Plan hosted by our Parks and Recreation division. Participating residents are asked to explore the virtual meeting room, which features maps of current trails, explains the study process and seeks input on existing conditions for many trails throughout our community. The purpose of this study is to continue creating a safe, scenic and visitor-friendly system of trails, as well as provide outdoor recreation and alternative, active transportation options.
 
Please know how much your dedication, hard work and support are appreciated. I cannot say it enough. Each and every one of you plays a critical role in providing essential services to our residents and ensuring our community remains a place in which everyone can thrive now and for years to come.
Jerry L. Demings, Orange County Mayor signature