Orange County strike teams to visit businesses suspected of not following mask mandate, CDC guidelines

Mayor Jerry Demings says teams will go to theme parks, gyms, shops and restaurants

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said the county will work with the Florida Department of Health to crack down on targeting “bad actors” among businesses who are not complying with executive orders put in place to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“We will be putting together some strike teams that will be going out into the community, to ensure that we get better compliance from the businesses with the executive orders and the other CDC directives that have been put in place,” Demings said Thursday during a news conference.

The mayor said strike teams will be deployed to businesses where complaints have been received and other businesses in general to make sure they are complying with the county mask mandate as well as guidelines put in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The strike teams will go to theme parks, gyms, retail shops and restaurants, Demings said.

The members of these teams will have credentials and will go in and look and inspect, said the mayor, businesses will not be informed in advance that they are coming.

“They’ll show up like any other member of the public and observe,” Demings said.

The result of the unannounced inspections could result in businesses being shut down but the mayor said he thinks that will be rare, if it happens at all. The businesses will receive warnings and the county will document those before further steps are taken.

“Not sure that they’ll shut down on site unless it was egregious,” Demings said. “It should be rare they shut anyone down on the spot.”

The strike teams come the same day new projections show many Central Florida counties could see a dramatic rise in the number of new coronavirus cases.

Research from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia shows coronavirus cases could rise dramatically if more preventive action is not taken. (WKMG/CHOP)

Researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania Policy Lab say Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Brevard and Volusia Counties face large numbers if nothing is done.

“I think Florida is in a very precarious situation right now,” said Dr. David Rubin.

Rubin is advocating for Florida and other states seeing large numbers to return to a Phase One reopening in order to reign in the virus.

“There’s a strong argument to be made right now that Florida needs to make a strong pause and go back to sheltering,” he said. “For us to get back to those times when we were hanging out with our friends at the local restaurant and the bar, we’ve got to get those transmission rates down, and we have to learn to use masks effectively, so that we’re not spreading it among ourselves.”

A subgroup of the Orange County economic recovery task force on business compliance and consumer confidence will meet next week to continue conversations about how to deal with “businesses who are bad actors,” the mayor said.

They’ll also discuss the possibility of enacting monetary penalties for those who violate the mask mandate. Reinstating the curfew, too, is something that could be considered if case numbers don’t decrease.

Several businesses have had their liquor licenses pulled by the Florida Department of Business Regulation for not enforcing capacity and social distancing guidelines.

“We want to target the bad actors,” Demings said. “At the meeting this week, they didn’t feel like they had enough information at that time to make any recommendations or changes. They want further information based on the health care data.”

Part of the problem, according to Demings, is the that due to delays in labs, the data is usually about a week old by the time they received it. Meaning on average, it takes about seven days between the time someone takes a test to the time the state receives the results.

“It is absolutely critical that we get good data in a timely manner,” Demings said.

The group will meet again Monday to review the current data and make recommendations from there, according to the mayor.

The full recovery task force will meet next week to decide on recommendations coming from the subcommittee groups.

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About the Authors:

Erik Sandoval joined the News 6 team as a reporter in May 2013 and became an Investigator in 2020. During his time at News 6, Erik has covered several major stories, including the 2016 Presidential campaign. He was also one of the first reporters live on the air at the Pulse Nightclub shooting.