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‘Celebrate safely:’ Orlando-area leaders urge COVID-19 caution ahead of July Fourth

Last holiday weekend led to increase in cases

A man wears a face mask as he shops for fireworks at Wild Willy's Fireworks tent in Omaha, Neb., Monday, June 29, 2020, ahead of the 4th of July holiday. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
A man wears a face mask as he shops for fireworks at Wild Willy's Fireworks tent in Omaha, Neb., Monday, June 29, 2020, ahead of the 4th of July holiday. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – With the Fourth of July holiday weekend approaching as COVID-19 cases continue to climb, Orange County leaders are asking that residents celebrate in a smart way that involves masks and social distancing.

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said any large-scale events that required permitting or the use of parks or other facilities have already been canceled, including the Fireworks at the Fountain event, which draws around 100,000 people to Lake Eola.

“We encourage people to continue to adhere to all the CDC rules and wear your mask and celebrate safely,” Dyer said.

Under phase two of reopening Florida, mass gatherings involving more than 50 people are prohibited. With that in mind, both mayors said they know people will still want to celebrate Independence Day with family and friends.

“We can’t just sit on our laurels because we are approaching this Fourth of July weekend and most of the large gatherings have been canceled or postponed but there still will be some that will occur, and it will be critically important for members of our community to adhere to the directives that we put in place,” Demings said.

Those who do choose to celebrate with family or friends should keep parties small, wear a mask and social distance as much as possible.

Memorial Day weekend in late May saw significant crowds at Florida’s beaches and springs. Weeks later, cases across the state started spiking. According to Dr. Raul Pino from the Florida Department of Health in Orange County, that’s no coincidence.

He said Orange County’s new mask mandate and the state ordering bars to stop serving alcohol for on-site consumption were both done to prevent something similar from happening as a result of Fourth of July celebrations.

“Nothing will make a better impact than our community getting into this issue and thinking seriously. As unnecessarily demonstrated the last couple of weeks: If we let our guards down, these will crop up again and I think that if we continue to work together, we will see a decline in the number of cases in the coming weeks,” Pino said.

Demings said he has faith in the people of Orange County, especially after seeing how well they’ve been abiding by the new mask mandate.

“I’m going to remain optimistic because of the different measures that have been put in place," Demings said.

So far, he said he feels the recent mitigation efforts have been effective.

“I believe it’s worked. And so, I believe that that will result in the kinds of outcomes that we’re looking for, a reduction in the numbers from the Memorial Day period of time forward,” he said.

As of Monday, Orange County has had 10,014 cumulative cases, 56 deaths and 440 hospitalizations.

“We had no idea that we would reach this point, certainly not as quickly as we have within the month of June,” Demings said.

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