OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. – Osceola County officials are rolling out a task force aimed at educating businesses about and holding them accountable for COVID-19 safety measures.
County leaders announced the new initiative Thursday during a news conference held in response to a statewide surge in coronavirus cases ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, a time when people usually gather with loved ones to celebrate.
According to Viviana Janer, the chairwoman of the board of county commissioners, the COVID-19 education and compliance task force will visit businesses and share coronavirus safety information in an effort to keep businesses open while also preventing the spread of the virus.
The task force is made up of members of code enforcement, building and fire inspection teams who will all work together to educate businesses on COVID-19 protocol during the pandemic.
County officials are asking business leaders to be strict about patrons and employees wearing face coverings, as the county’s mask mandate is still in effect. Social distancing measures should also be in place.
The compliance teams will begin visiting businesses next week during a soft launch in time for the Thanksgiving holiday and will be in full effect the following week, Janer said.
WATCH LIVE | Osceola County leaders discuss coronavirus response
WATCH LIVE | Osceola County leaders discuss coronavirus response. https://bit.ly/3nIydDlPosted by News 6 WKMG / ClickOrlando on Thursday, November 19, 2020
In addition to information about COVID-19 safety, team members will also share details with business owners during their visits about financial resources available to them, as businesses have been hit hard by the pandemic.
Janer said grant money is still available to businesses through the federal CARES Act.
Individuals who need help making rent or mortgage payments due to COVID-19 can apply for the county’s eviction diversion program. Click here for details on all available financial assistance.
Osceola County has seen its own spike in coronavirus cases recently. Janer said the county has an 8.8% positivity rate for the past two weeks, something she said she was disappointed to see just as the community was beginning to think it may have been getting the virus under control.
“This is something to be very, very alarmed by,” Janer said.
Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Osceola County has reported more than 16,400 total infections. Janer said the county is also seeing a spike in the number of coronavirus-related hospitalizations.
Due to the recent surge in cases, Janer is encouraging people to follow the CDC’s recommendations for how to safely celebrate Thanksgiving during the pandemic.
She’s asking residents to limit the number of guests at their gatherings and, if possible, to hold them outside where people can spread out and get fresh air.
Statewide, Florida has reported 905,248 COVID-19 cases since March.