Orange County mayor reviewing reopening guidelines for businesses

Mayor Jerry Demings considering deeming hair salons, barber shops essential

With the Monday soft reopening of Florida fast approaching, a task force of business and community members in Orange County has developed a set of guidelines to help local establishments open but continue to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force, assembled by Mayor Jerry Demings, released a list of guidelines Friday that they will recommend businesses follow. The guidelines were approved by the full task force and sent to the mayor for final review.

The recommendations from the task force include:

  • Social distancing
  • Telling employees to stay home when sick
  • Face coverings for employees
  • Conducting health screenings
  • Sanitizing and washing hands frequently
  • High risk individuals should work from home whenever possible
  • Recommended temperature checks for all staff. If their temperature is above 100 degrees they will go home.

The guidelines are for all businesses regardless of industry.

The task force also voted to ask the mayor to consider allowing self-care businesses, including barber shops, hair salons and nail salons, to open by adding them to the essential business list. Those businesses aren’t part of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ part one reopening plan but the mayor has said there is some ambiguity in the new order.

[RELATED: Gov. Ron DeSantis says most of Florida can begin first phase of reopening May 4 | What does the governor’s decision to reopen Florida mean where you live?]

Given the recommendation, Demings penned a letter to DeSantis asking that barber shops and salons be permitted to open with strict guidelines in place.

Demings said that given the hygiene standards that are normally practiced at these facilities, he’s confident they can operate without putting employees or customers at risk.

“I think that they can safely do it,” Demings said.

Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Halsey Beshears said there may be a way to allow those businesses to open.

“(DeSantis) gives local authorities to determine what is essential. If you deem it as essential, perhaps that’s a way to go about it. It’s not going against the governor," Beshears said.

Demings said he will work with the county attorney to determine if this is possible.

Within the next 24 hours, Demings plans to issue an executive order that will give businesses a better idea of how to operate before Monday. Since the county is under a state of emergency, the mayor has the authority to waive certain procedures so that employees can quickly get back to work.

“We just simply don’t have the time at this point to go through long, arduous processes," Demings said.

Speaking Friday evening, Demings reminded restaurant owners that they still need to obtain proper permits if they plan on serving diners outside in order to not exceed 25% capacity inside.

This will keep guests from dining in parking lots, sidewalks or other areas that could create a safety hazard.

He also said that ahead of Monday’s opening that the county has purchased one million masks using money from the CARES Act that will be distributed to small businesses so they can keep employees safe.

If an employee is forced to miss a shift due to failing a health screening, it will be up to the individual employer to decide whether to provide paid time off. Demings said ensuring that employees have masks and other personal protective equipment could reduce their risk of falling ill.

Dr. Raul Pino from the Florida Department of Health in Orange County said that once businesses begin reopening, testing and data analysis will be done to ensure that the area doesn’t experience a second wave of COVID-19 patients.

That process will involving continuing to protect at-risk populations, examining the positivity rate, looking at hospitalizations and ER visits and monitoring other trends.

Demings didn’t have a timeline for when theme parks and other major economic drivers will be able to start accepting guests again.

“There’s still much work to be done as we move from phase one to phase two," Demings said.

The sub-groups of the county’s reopening task force will continue to meet next week to develop more guidelines for business compliance and other standards.

Check back for updates as the task force continues to work toward a plan to reopen the county. News 6 reporter Nadeen Yanes is sharing live updates on Twitter and ClickOrlando.com.

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