ORLANDO, Fla. – Anyone in Orange County, including within the city limits of Orlando, will be required to wear a face mask beginning this Saturday while out in public under a new mandate by Mayor Jerry Demings.
The county-wide executive order comes as Orange County, along with the rest of Florida, reported a record number of new coronavirus infections Thursday. The Florida Department of Health on Thursday reported 3,207 new cases of COVID-19, as well as 43 new deaths.
Under Demings’ order, “every person working, living, visiting or doing business in Orange County,” will be required to wear face coverings consistent with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, while in any public space.
The mandate goes into effect Saturday, June 20 at 12:01 a.m. until further notice.
“The executive order is in the best interest of all businesses, especially the bars and restaurants,” Demings said. “We do not want to experience another shutdown within our community.”
Masks do not need to be worn when people are able to maintain six feet from others, according to the executive order. Other exemptions include children under 2 years old and people whom a face covering would cause impairment due to an existing health condition.
The executive order will not be enforced through fines, the mayor said.
“We want voluntary compliance with this, we have been deliberate at this phase of not saying that it carries a criminal penalty, because that’s not the goal ... in the world that we live in now with the potential conflict between law enforcement and the community we’re certainly not trying to create an environment where we want law enforcement to get into enforcing, what I call, maybe minor violations of law or rules where that’s not our goal here,” Demings said.
However, if the county receives complaints about a particular business that is not adhering to the CDC guidelines or the order then the county will look at different options to address those.
Locally, several bars and restaurants have had to temporarily cease operations after employees or patrons tested positive. Demings spoke about what should be happening when people go out to eat or visit their favorite bar.
“We know that in the cases of bars or restaurants, people have to eat, and they may have to take the mask off, but the expectation is that the employees will continuously wear their masks and that the individuals who were going there, they may enter with a mask and if they’re not eating or doing other things, you know, they’re just congregating and socializing, then they should be wearing a mask,” Demings said.
In Orange County alone, more than 300 new cases were reported Thursday. At least 28 Orlando firefighters and several Orlando police officers have tested positive for COVID-19. Dozens of OPD and OFD employees are under a 14-day quarantine now as well.
“We have continued to see a significant increase, triple digit increase sustain and new transmissions of the COVID-19 virus within our community,” Demings said. “For the last 10 days or so, we’ve seen that number continue to go up. So that’s very concerning to me.”
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said he supported Demings executive order.
“Even if people use just face masks, we should see a significant reduction in infections in two weeks,” said Dr. Raul Pino with the Florida Department of Health in Orange County.
“While we may think we’re done with the virus, we must remember the viruses, not done with us,” Dyer warned, adding “No one is immune to coming into contact with the virus. So we must not behave as if we are.”
Demings said if the upward trend of coronavirus cases continues, additional measures will be taken to protect public safety.