ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Orange County leaders are once again recommending everyone to wear a mask when in crowded, indoor locations regardless of whether they are vaccinated. This guidance comes as Orange County’s positivity rate has jumped higher in the past two weeks.
According to Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, the county’s 14-day rolling positivity rate now sits at 7.78%.
“Two weeks ago on June 28, it was 4.28%. We are now considered by the CDC the high-risk category for community transmission, that quite frankly is not good news for our county,” Demings said.
Dr. Raul Pino from the Florida Department of Health in Orange County said the county is also seeing a rise in COVID-19 cases and predicts that trend will continue.
Yesterday 406 cases of new infections were reported to the Florida Department of Health and we have been above 400 (a day) since Thursday. Now the week before that we were at 200 a day. So, it has doubled and it will double next week if we do not do what we need to do,” Pino said.
The doctor said the vaccination is key to stemming this new tide of infections.
“100% of the cases reported yesterday were among unvaccinated individuals,” Pino said. “More so, 100% of the deaths that we are reporting to you today, were among unvaccinated individuals. So we can mask up, we can keep the distance, we can try not to talk about this but the reality is that this is an unvaccinated pandemic.”
The doctor added that 59.69% of eligible residents in Orange County have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 52% had completed their vaccine series.
Pino also encouraged parents to get all eligible children vaccinated ahead of their return to school. At the time of this writing, only the Pfizer vaccine is authorized in use for children 12 and older. This comes as Orange County Public Schools board is set to vote tomorrow on whether to make masks optional for the upcoming school year.
Demings later added that while he strongly recommended that everyone wear masks indoors when social distancing was not possible, he said he was still hesitant to issue a new mask mandate.
“I am not at the point of this where I want to reinstitute a mandate. This is a strong recommendation at this time,” Demings said.
Earlier this year, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a law that changes the emergency powers of local governments. He said at the time, the new law puts safeguards in place to protect against government overreach in the event of an emergency.
Demings said it was still possible for him to impose a mask mandate despite those rule changes.
“It is possible, and the Governor’s Executive Order prohibits the situation of fines or any of that,” he said.
News 6 reached out to the governor’s office for reaction to the mask recommendation from Demings.
“Mayor Demings is free to make any recommendation he wishes, but counties cannot impose civil or criminal penalties on citizens who choose not to wear masks,” Christina Pushaw, the governor’s press secretary said in a statement. “I hope a journalist will ask the Mayor for the empirical scientific evidence that informs his mask recommendations.”