Osceola County leaders remind residents that masks are to be worn in public

Leaders issued an order in April requiring face coverings to be worn in public

Osceola County stressed the importance Friday of their mandate that’s been in effect since April 13, requiring people to wear face coverings in public.

OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. – Osceola County stressed the importance Friday of their mandate that’s been in effect since April 13, requiring people to wear face coverings in public.

The mandate is something the county said has helped with their COVID-19 numbers.

“We do see, maybe, a lower spike than some of the other areas that don’t have the mask mandate,” Osceola County Commission Chairwoman Viviana Janer said,

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As of Friday, the Florida Department of Health reported over 900 positive cases of COVID-19 in Osceola County.

“Since early March, (Osceola County has) had 960 confirmed cases in Osceola with double-digit increases reported daily since June 10,” Janer said. “With nearly 20,000 tests administered, we have maintained a positive rate of less than 5%.”

The FDOH also reports 172 people have been hospitalized and another 23 have died from the respiratory illness since the virus was first detected in the state on March 1.

The hospitalizations represent 18% of the total number of cases in the county, officials said.

“We have also seen an increase in cases in the 20 to 34-year-old age group, our median age for the last 14 days has been 27,” Vianca McCluskey, with the Florida Department of Health in Osceola County said.

Osceola County has seen an increase in testing over the last few months as well.

“5,200 people have been tested this month, which exceeds testing for the entire month of April,” Janer said. “Our current testing trends indicate that we will exceed our total test rate of May, which was at 900, this month.”

Osceola County continues to have a mandatory face-covering order in effect.

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“I have received many comments, and also have personally seen many people have relaxed their use of face coverings. But as we venture out of our homes, we must continue to be mindful of our health, as well as the health of others,” Janer explained.

As of June 19, Osceola County has seen an increase in positive cases at 76%, while Orange County’s is almost a 190% increase.

“We certainly do feel the masks have been working,” Major Jacob Ruiz, of the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office, said.

News 6 asked the Osceola County Sheriff's Office what advice they have for surrounding counties.

“Get on board. Do something for your community to require them to wear a mask when in public,” said Ruiz.

The sheriff’s Office said people have become more relaxed when it comes to wearing a mask and while they cannot fine or arrest those who don’t comply, they will respond to complaints.

Ruiz said when the Sheriff’s Office receives complaints they send a report to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

He adds, their job is to educate the public and encourage safe practices while out in public.

You can re-watch the news conference in the video player below.

About the Authors:

Loren Korn is a native Texan who joined the News 6 team as a reporter in May 2014. She was born and raised in Houston and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Journalism.