Orange County mayor reiterates face mask importance as COVID-19 cases rise, skew younger

Mayor says young people make up large portion of new cases

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings addressed residents Monday, and again, stressed the importance of mandatory face mask use after the county saw 782 newly reported cases of COVID-19 over the weekend.

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings addressed residents Monday, and again, stressed the importance of mandatory face mask use after the county saw 782 newly reported cases of COVID-19 over the weekend.

“We saw 437 in one day yesterday, in a 24 hour period, after Saturday we saw 345 cases, which reinforces again, the necessity for the mandatory face mask order within Orange County, so our goal is real simple: to continue the slowing of the spread of the virus within our community,” Demings said of the numbers over the weekend.

Demings said while he was out and about over the Father’s Day weekend, he saw many wearing a mask, but also a portion of residents not complying with the mandate, and said he hopes that changes.

“It was good to see so many people here within Orange County also who were wearing masks,” Demings said. “We still have some who are not wearing masks but I’m encouraged that perhaps they will.”

The mayor said the county health department is furthering testing for communities hard hit by the coronavirus by focusing testing in the Zellwood and Apopka communities.

“Orange County Health Services is focusing free testing in more of the zip codes where we see significant numbers of new cases,” Demings said.

[READ MORE: Orange County extends COVID-19 testing in Apopka, Zellwood neighborhoods]

Dr. Raul Pino, Florida Department of health officer in Orange County, reminded residents that social distancing and proper hygiene are as important as ever as COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

On Saturday, Pino said 437 residents tested positive for COVID-19, rounding up the positivity rate to 16.5%.

On Sunday, Pino said the county received 1,631 negative tests and 210 positive tests for an 11.4% positivity rate.

The new cases in Florida overall and in Orange County have been leaning younger in the past few weeks.

“The most important change in the pandemic has been that is going younger. That’s the change for us here in (Orange County),” Pino said. “I hope I have hopes that this is going to be an increased number due to the social activity in the younger population that we saw three to three weeks ago.”

The median age for the last 14 days is 19, according to Pino, and 43% of all new cases are between 20 to 29 years old.

From Sunday into Monday, the FDOH reported 243 new cases of coronavirus in Orange County as well as 49 new deaths. The county also saw 8 new hospitalizations due to COVID-19.

However, Pino said that the 49th death reported for the day was that of a 24-year-old who tested positive for COVID-19, but died in a motorcycle accident.

“We don’t know yet if he would be in the final count as the cause of death was not COVID-19 itself, but that’s for the medical examiner to determine, but the case is there and we provide more information when it comes up.”

[RELATED: Florida coronavirus cases surpass 100,000 as positive numbers continue to swell]

The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases reported in Orange since the virus was first detected in the state on March 1 rose to 5,157, as well as a total of 445 deaths.

Demings instituted mandatory mask use in the county beginning Saturday morning, but critics have questioned whether mandating mask use was violating their rights.

Demings said that while no fine or criminal sanctions are being issued for non-compliance, Demings hopes that he will see more success through voluntary compliance.

“We’re going to continue to do that from mandating the wearing of masks by employees, to make a mask available for visitors, to the hand sanitizer locations, to the social distancing,” Demings said. “We’re asking everyone to help enforce (mandatory mask use). I do see that happening, where a bit of peer pressure is taking effect.”

Pino echoed the Mayor’s sentiment.

“I think making it mandatory is the first piece of enforcement. And it is important because it gives people the ability to demand from businesses and places of work … putting a mask on it is also a way to protect yourself but also express respect for the life of others,” Pino said.

Demings said that face mask use, much like adjusting to life during a pandemic, will take some getting used to but is imperative for community health.

“We are all learning to live with the virus in our community, to the best that we can. And so, When everyone does their part to make us safer through adhering to the CDC guidelines, then that is just what occurs, we become safer as a result of it,” Demings said.

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About the Author:

Erin began her career at News 6 as an assignment editor, then became a show producer. She is now a digital storyteller as part of the Click Orlando team.