After extending its local state of emergency order for another week on Thursday, Osceola County Commissioners agreed unanimously to write a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis to have him reconsider re-opening a sector of the economy important to Osceola County’s economy — vacation rentals.
The letter was co-signed by State Rep. Mike La Rosa, Kissimmee/Osceola County Chamber of Commerce President John Newstreet and and Experience Kissimmee CEO D.T. Minich, according to County Commission Chair Viviana Janer.
“Vacation rentals can be safer for travelers in that they don’t have the same kind of shared spaces of hotels, which the state never mandated to close, and social distancing is easier to achieve,” Janer said at Friday’s weekly media briefing about the COVID-19 pandemic. “The risk of spreading the virus is less likely, and we hope to get the governor’s support. And half of our Tourist Development dollars come from vacation rentals.”
On the subject of testing, while the AdventHealth drive-up site will close at noon on Monday, a testing site run by Quest Diagnostics will begin testing next week at the Wal-Mart on State Road 535 on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. To get an appointment, go to myquestcovidtest.com.
The county health department’s testing site that was at Bellalago Academy this week will move to the Community Hope Center Tuesday-Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and the following week to the Robert Guevara Center in Buenaventura Lakes the same days and times. Call the health department at 407-343-2000 to make an appointment.
In all cases, those in at risk groups (senior citizens, those with underlying conditions), those showing symptoms and those who feel they have been in close contact with someone who’s previously tested positive are welcome.
While the number of new cases daily is staying steady, testing has increased, and the percentage of tests that are positive is dropping. At 12 to 14 percent a month ago, that figure is now at 7.1 percent, below the Florida average of 7.6 percent.
“That is an important indicator,” Janer said. “Our county’s Back to Work Committee meets looking for ways to ensure consumer confidence in safely opening businesses ensuring the health and safety of of employees and patrons.”
The city of Kissimmee has waived building and permitting fees for projects (they still need proper applications) for 120 days, and relaxed signage and outdoor seating ordinances for businesses and restaurants. A “Shop local” campaign encouraging residents to patronize small, locally-owned businesses will take shape in days.
St. Cloud Mayor Nathan Blackwell said it’s been a relief seeing his city’s local businesses coming back to life, and customers going to them smartly.
“Thank you to all of you who are following the CDC guidelines and using common sense,” he said. “Your actions will help us get through this effectively.”