ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Although Gov. Ron DeSantis stripped local governments from enacting mask mandates or any other types of restrictions to stop the spread of COVID-19, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings is asking residents to stay the course.
He urged his constituents to follow the health advice repeatedly put forth by medical experts: wear a mask, wash your hands and social distance.
“We have a responsibility to protect ourselves and protect others by following the CDC guidelines. Again, I urge our residents and businesses to not give up on getting the vaccine nor give up on wearing facial coverings. If we give up now, the consequences may be catastrophic,” Demings said.
The mayor has been vocal about his disappointment in the governor’s decision to suspend all local emergency orders, calling it an attempt on DeSantis’ part “to usurp the authority of Democrat-led urban counties.”
Demings had recently laid out a plan to lift the mask mandate in outdoor environments once 50% of eligible residents were vaccinated then remove it altogether once 70% of adults received the inoculations.
While that approach is now null and void thanks to the DeSantis, Demings still wants residents to follow those guidelines and said the local theme parks and many other businesses already plan on doing so.
“I have lived in this community all of my entire life and have been in public service for 40 of those years. My job and that of other health care experts is to give you the best advice possible and we will continue to do that. I know that by working together, we can make a difference and end this unprecedented health crisis,” Demings said.
With about 46% of eligible residents vaccinated, Demings reminded the community that vaccines are available to anyone who would like one at four local recreation centers. No appointments are needed and so far, demand has been tepid.
Florida Department of Health in Orange County epidemiologist Alvina Chu said the hurdle now is getting those who are hesitant to change their minds about the shot.
That includes young people, many of whom believe they’re less likely to experience severe symptoms or deaths from an infection.
She cautioned against that way of thinking as she delivered news that one of the most recent COVID-19 casualties was an 18-year-old woman who had underlying health conditions. An Orange County Public Schools spokesman said the woman was a Freedom High School student who died on April 29.
“This particular case, the youngest person that we now have who has recently died, highlights the urgency of individuals, for all of us, even those in the younger age groups, to get vaccinated and to stay on guard and continue our pandemic precautions. So we know that there can be severe consequences for those who have underlying health conditions. We do know that young persons can still pass away. And we do know that the COVID-19 vaccines that we have are excellent at preventing severe hospitalization and death,” Chu said.