ORLANDO, Fla. – In order to keep large crowds from gathering inside bars during what could be a busy Halloween weekend, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said open containers of alcohol will be allowed in certain high-traffic areas of downtown Orlando.
“We’re going to allow alcohol on the streets in some designated areas I don’t know exactly, remember the exact area, but in the highly concentrated areas so that people don’t have to congregate in the bars, there’s more open space available for people to be out in the street and be able to social distance,” Dyer said.
Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolón said the city is setting up a perimeter around the core downtown area. Rolón said open containers will be allowed on the streets and sidewalks within the perimeter, not in parking garages or surface parking lots.
“So the perimeter is going to be Church Street to the south, Washington Street to the north, Garland to the west and Magnolia to the east,” Rolón said.
Dyer topped off his remarks by saying he was concerned about the potential for big crowds in bars along Orange Avenue that are once again open for business, which could contribute to the spread of COVID-19.
Thomas Chatmon, the executive director of the Downtown Development Board and Community Redevelopment Agency, said Halloween is typically one of the busiest nights of the year.
“We expect that even though we’re in the midst of a very unusual time with the pandemic, we do expect that this Halloween will be similar,” Chatmon said.
Both Chatmon and Rolón said allowing open containers within a certain area of downtown will create more space for people to spread out.
“The intent here is to not have everybody inside the establishments elbow to elbow, but to allow them to walk around freely in those specific defined areas,” Rolón said.
Chatmon said the city is posting signs later this week that will encourage people to follow best safety practices, like wearing face coverings and social distancing. He adds the city’s ambassadors will also hand out free masks to 200 businesses to make sure everyone is doing their part.
“We want to do everything that we can to ensure that we are providing the safest atmosphere and environment,” he said.
There will also be increased security downtown with Orlando police officers, uniformed security and the ambassadors.
Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings and Dr. Raul Pino from the Florida Department of Health both said it’s up to parents and individuals to take measures to keep themselves safe during the holiday on Saturday.
As far as tips or advice, they recommended holding virtual events rather than in-person parties, wearing masks, avoiding large groups and washing or sanitizing hands often.
“What we are recommending is that parents have to make those individual decisions themselves about whether or not to allow their children to go out and trick-or-treat but many of our neighbors are already being proactive in kind of changing from giving candy individually out to trick-or-treaters to placing it out in bags, small bags so that they can just only touch one bag as opposed to many. So we encourage our community to not really do large scale types of events per se but to do events where they can be socially distanced,” Demings said.
Pino stressed the importance of using good judgment.
“You know, keeping the mask on when you are walking in groups, keeping some distance when you knock on the doors and receding a little bit so you give the opportunity for that person to open the door if the candies are going to be offered and washing your hands frequently,” Pino said.
As we head into the holiday weekend, Pino said that Orange County is faring better than the state when it comes to coronavirus deaths and hospitalization numbers across the region are stable.
Orange County has reported a cumulative total of 45,242 COVID-19 cases, 1,564 hospitalizations and 546 deaths as of Monday, according to the Florida Department of Health.