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Coronavirus fears cancel health conference in Orlando that President Trump was supposed to visit

Orlando Sentinel - 3/5/2020

A massive health conference expecting 44,000 attendees -- including a speech from President Donald Trump Monday -- at the Orange County Convention Center has been canceled amid fears of coronavirus.

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society conference announced the cancellation Thursday, days before it was due to kickoff Monday. It cited “industry understanding of the potential reach of the virus has changed significantly in the last 24 hours" which made assessing risk “impossible.” The society was also wary of displacing healthcare workers from around the world, should the virus continue spreading.

“This will be the first time in 58 years the event has been cancelled, but it is now clear that cancellation is unavoidable in order to meet HIMSS’ obligation to protect the health and safety of the global HIMSS community, employees and local residents, as well as for the healthcare providers tasked with keeping our U.S. and global communities healthy,” a statement reads.

The White House couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. The Orange County Convention Center also couldn’t immediately be reached.

There are currently no cases of Covid-19, or coronavirus, in Orange County, though this week Mayor Jerry Demings said they expect it will eventually arrive here. The region welcomed 75 million tourists from around the world last year.

Trump was scheduled to attend the conference on its opening day on Monday.

Questions have been raised about the Trump administration’s response to the outbreak, which the president placed in the hands of Vice President Mike Pence over his Health and Human Services secretary.

The president has also said of Democrats’ criticism of his coronavirus, “This is their new hoax” at a rally last week and downplayed the death rate in a TV appearance last night, saying he disagreed on the World Health Organization and had a “hunch” it was much lower.

“I think the 3.4% number is really a false number,” Trump told Sean Hannity. “Now this is just my hunch, but based on a lot of conversations ... personally, I’d say the number is way under 1%.”

Trump is still expected in the region next week. He has a private fundraiser scheduled Monday evening in Central Florida, most likely in Seminole County.

This is a developing story, please check back for updates.

rygillespie@orlandosentinel.com, slemongello@orlandosentinel.com

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