ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – While the coronavirus numbers have been improving in Orange County in recent weeks, Mayor Jerry Demings doesn’t plan to do away with the local mask mandate just yet.
Demings said it’s something he’s been asked over and over again. Speaking at a news conference Thursday, he urged patience among his constituents.
“There’s questions about whether or not we should keep the facial covering mandates in place here within the county, I think so. And the reason I say so is because people are still getting infected, number one. Number two, people are dying. And number three, we still have a long way to go to reach the herd immunity to get up to that 79% pinnacle that you heard Dr. Pino and others talk about with us only being at about 10% of Orange County residents who have now been vaccinated,” Demings said.
He explained that he won’t consider removing the mask mandate until at least about 50% of residents have gotten the COVID-19 vaccine, which could happen at some point this summer now that the supply is picking up and more residents, including teachers and child care workers, have been deemed eligible.
Demings was on a call earlier in the day Thursday with other Central Florida mayors and representatives from the local hospital systems. He said officials from AdventHealth, Orlando Health and HCA Healthcare were unanimous when they said it was too soon to consider rescinding the mask mandate.
“So I can tell you that at least within the region, we are consistent in what we believe is the right thing for our region,” Demings said.
Orange County’s mask mandate was issued in June 2020 at a time when the state was reporting about 3,000 new coronavirus cases per day. That number climbed significantly after the Labor Day and July 4 holidays.
Recently, the state has been reporting around 5,000 new cases per day.
When the time comes to nix the county’s mask mandate, Demings said he’ll also no longer fine businesses for not requiring facial coverings for their patrons and staff.
“I think as long as we have an executive order that is viable, that remains in place, we have to hold people accountable to that executive order. So if the decision is made to relax the wearing of facial coverings here within Orange County, we will have to make a modification and likely do away with any type of fines associated with not wearing facial coverings,” the mayor said.
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