Florida health official: No birthday parties to keep virus away

The top health official in one of Florida’s most populous counties is discouraging parents from hosting birthday parties for their children, no matter the size, in an effort to prevent outbreaks of the new coronavirus.

Dr. Raul Pino, health officer for the Florida Department of Health in Orange County, said half of the 30 attendees at a recent Sweet 16 party in the Orlando area came down with the virus. Last month, an Orange County high school closed for two weeks after students who had attended a birthday party tested positive for the virus.

“Those parties will not only affect those people participating in that activity, but also everyone else they come into contact with when they leave,” Pino said Thursday at a news conference. “I’m absolutely sure no one wants this to happen. We will continue to see consequences if we don’t act super-responsibly.”

RELATED: Florida reports over 4,400 coronavirus cases, 77 more deaths

Orange County, which is home to some of the nation’s most famous theme park resorts, has had a moderate uptick in virus cases in the past few days, Pino said.

In recent days, the county’s positivity rate has crossed into the 6% range after being in the 5% range. Maintaining the positivity rate around 5% makes it possible to contact trace and isolate people, keeping the virus under control, Pino said.

RELATED: Orange County reopens portal to apply for $1,000 stimulus checks

The total number of coronavirus cases in Florida increased by 4,471 on Saturday, the Florida Department of Health reported. 

Another 77 Florida residents have died. The statewide total of cases is now at 776,251 and resident deaths are at 16,417. With 203 non-resident deaths, the combined toll is 16,620.