ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Orange County leaders are working on a phased approach to easing the county’s mask mandate and Mayor Jerry Demings plans to make a first announcement on what that could look like on Wednesday.
This comes the same day the Centers for Disease Control announced new mask guidelines, saying fully vaccinated Americans don’t need to cover their faces outdoors anymore unless they are in a big crowd of strangers.
“I believe that the CDC probably made the right call,” Demings said. “What the CDC has recommended is consistent with what I have received in the way of research.”
Demings said the first step in the county’s phased removal of its mask mandates will be to amend the rule to align with the CDC guidance.
“I’ve been in the board meeting today and hadn’t had time to caucus to my staff and review what the CDC has recommended, but likely tomorrow (Wednesday) we will make an adjustment in our mask mandate here in the Orange County,” Demings said.
Of course, Orange County is home to several major theme parks and attractions, which are largely outdoors but still draw massive crowds, especially heading into the summer months.
Walt Disney World Resort theme parks plan to keep the current mask policy even with the new CDC guidance.
Demings believes this new guidance will lead to changes at the parks.
“There is no question they are going to adjust their protocols for people waiting in lines outside, etcetera and that is something we will see soon,” Demings said.
He added, “This is good news. We knew at some point there would be a relaxing of restrictions because people are now getting vaccinated — the goal however is still to keep the positivity rate low. We are not at that point yet where we can take off face-covering in all settings.”
Demings stressed that more work needs to be done before masking can be done entirely. He has said previously that he would like to see at least 50% of Orange County’s population vaccinated before that happens.
“This is good news but we have to give the public guidance to help keep people safe,” he said. “That is the reason government exists to keep people safe. You can’t be silent. We must give our community clear direction and that’s what I intend to do by tomorrow.”
The positivity rate in Orange County is 7.79%, leaders have previously said they want to keep that percentage below 5%.
As of Sunday, about 36% of Orange County residents have received one or more doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and 24% of residents have completed the series.