ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Maskless patrons packed inside bars and nightclubs in the Orlando area have proved to be problematic for Orange County strike teams that are sent out to ensure coronavirus rules and regulations are being followed.
Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said the teams conducted rounds this weekend and issued citations for four such establishments: Knight Library, Knights Pub, Infyniti Nightclub, all in east Orlando near the University of Central Florida, and Tin Roof on International Drive.
Demings said getting these businesses to comply with the mask mandate and social distancing guidelines has been a struggle from the start.
“These are places where the density is high, where, you know, because of the crowd that’s there, these are primarily young adults, and they take risks. They are healthy individuals, they may take risks that others who may be 65 or older, or who are in vulnerable populations, they won’t take the risk,” Demings said.
Tim Boldig, the deputy director for Orange County’s Community, Environmental & Development Services Department, said many of the citations the strike teams have issued have gone to bars and clubs, which are designed to host a large number of people.
“So it’s tough to keep that social distancing. I think what we’re seeing is not only that, but the downfall of just not wearing masks when you get a lot of people in an enclosed space, not wearing masks just, it’s a recipe for disaster and we’re trying to keep people safe in some form or fashion,” Boldig said.
He added that he understands the governor has opened the state for business but he advocates for operating in a way that won’t cause COVID-19 cases to spike once again.
“Everybody wants to have a good time, we want to make sure everybody has a good time but we have to be safe,” Boldig said. “I think the message has been clear from day one: Wash your hands, wear your mask, social distance and we can get through this, if we if we just all adhere to those rules.”
For Dr. Raul Pino from the Florida Department of Health in Orange County, following those rules is especially important now that the region is seeing fewer cases, a lower positivity rate and a higher recovery rate.
“We are beginning to make inroads in fighting this pandemic but we still need your help and compliance with CDC guidelines so that we can continue to successfully advance,” Pino said.
To help gain that compliance, Demings said strike teams will continue to visit businesses, including the 21 establishments across the county that have been cited since the mayor issued his executive order late last year.
“So, those types of businesses, they can anticipate at any given time that the strike teams can visit the business and that can subject them to the fine. That’s what we have to do, we’re gonna continue to do it,” Demings said.