Coronavirus: Is Orange County’s mask mandate working? Too soon to tell, health official says

Dr. Pino: Data in coming days will show effects of mask mandate, bar closures

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – More than one week after officials made mask-wearing mandatory in Orange County, the doctor leading the county’s response to the coronavirus pandemic says it’s still too soon to tell if residents’ efforts are paying off.

Dr. Raul Pino, health officer for the Florida Department of Health in Orange County, said during a news conference Monday that although the county has officially reached the 10,000-mark with its total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, the most recent batch of data gives him reason to believe the mask mandate is helping to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

[READ MORE: Orange County residents will be required to wear face masks under new executive order | List of closed Orange County restaurants, bars following a resurgence of COVID-19 cases]

“We have received today the data for two days. And these are just the results: 2,248 cases negative and 345 positive cases. That’s a 13.3% positive rate. Just to give you an idea, last time that we had 13 (percent) was on June 22,” Pino said during the news conference. “And although we don’t want to be complacent about it or give you false hope, it could be that the data is starting to indicate a little bit of the results of mandating the mask.”

Pino emphasized that’s it’s still too soon to know for sure if the lower numbers are a result of the mask mandate, which went into effect June 20 after the county -- much like the state as a whole -- reported a spike in cases as reopening efforts continued throughout Florida.

Shortly after issuing the mask mandate, bars in Orange County also began closing their doors as more cases were reported. Leaders believe bars, which were allowed to reopen as part of phase two of the governor’s plan to reopen Florida, could be to blame for a recent drop in the age of positive COVID-19 cases.

Because it takes awhile for numbers to reflect those changes, Pino said Tuesday’s data will be more telling.

“This pandemic works like a clock. It’s every seven days, you can really track everything every seven days. Every 14 days is the cycle that is right there like a clock. And coincidentally a week ago, about a week ago was when the mask order was put in place. And right after that, the bars were closed. So we could see a decrease in the number of cases,” Pino said. “But more, it’s also at the speed of which we are gaining new cases, and what that percentage is from week to week. But also we have to watch out for the age. If the ages start to increase, then we have made some improvement with regard to the bars on the population that is getting affected.”

As of Monday, Orange County was reporting 10,014 total cases of COVID-19, with 56 total deaths.

Also on Monday, the Florida Department of Health reported 5,266 new positive cases, bringing the statewide total to 146,341, with 3,447 coronavirus-related deaths.

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