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Gov. DeSantis said 260 Orlando airport workers tested positive for COVID-19. OIA says not quite

ORLANDO, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday said 260 workers at the Orlando International Airport have tested positive for the coronavirus after nearly 500 employees were tested but according to the airport management that’s not the case, WKMG reported.

“[An]airport in Central Florida had a couple of cases, they did the contact tracing,” DeSantis said Tuesday during a news conference. “They looked [at] almost 500 workers [and] 260 people working close together were positive, 52 percent positivity rate on that one.”

However, it turns out those positive cases were not all airport employees and the cases were from a period of several months, according to the Orlando International Airport.

Orlando airport executives clarified the numbers Wednesday, saying not all 260 people are workers nor were they part of the group of 500 workers tested as referenced by the governor.

[READ MORE: OIA executive provides clarity after governor’s COVID-19 statement on airport workers]

The Florida Department of Health provided a further explanation for the numbers Wednesday afternoon:

“The number of cases at Orlando International Airport is cumulative from March 2020 and includes household close contacts as determined through the extensive epidemiological investigations conducted by the Department of Health.

“These cases were all identified from and associated with positive COVID-19 cases linked to the airport. Through collaboration with airport and local authorities and thorough efforts in contact tracing, all the cases were linked and notified.

“Last week, the Florida Department of Health in Orange County (DOH-Orange) conducted 500 tests. Only two came back positive and held no risk of exposure to others. DOH-Orange has been active in monitoring and investigating every case at the airport and will continue to ensure the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance and protocols are followed closely,” the statement read.

The governor’s office has also since walked back on the claims.

“Governor DeSantis has emphasized the benefit of testing for COVID-19 and contact tracing throughout the state. MCO had 132 employees test positive for COVID-19. Through contact tracing of those employees, an additional 128 individuals not associated with the airport tested positive for COVID-19 resulting in 260 total positive cases. We appreciate MCO’s commitment to working with the Orange County Health Department, the Florida Department of Health and for ensuring best practices are followed for the health and safety of all employees and visitors to the airport,” communications director Helen Ferre said Wednesday afternoon.

Chief Executive Phil Brown released a statement Wednesday.

According to Brown’s statement, of the 500 airport workers who were tested for coronavirus, only two had positive results. Brown said those 500 workers were tested within a three-day period.

“In discussion with Dr. Raul Pino, the public health director for Orange County, it appears that is the extent of the results from those 500 tests. That would calculate to be a 0.4% positivity rate for COVID-19 for those 500 tests,” Brown’s statement said.

The state reports more than 80,676 people have tested positive from COVID-19 and 3,018 people have died from coronavirus.


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