ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings is making plans in case it becomes necessary to take action as coronavirus cases continue to swell.
The county reported 700 new infections on Thursday alone, causing concern for the mayor.
“If we approach that number where we see 1,000 new cases a day, that is something that really takes us back to a point in time months ago. It’s been months since we saw those types of cases here within our community. We don’t want to see those numbers go up,” Demings said.
The governor earlier this year signed an executive order suspending all coronavirus emergency orders enacted by local governments, including mask mandates and the ability to fine COVID-19 rule breakers.
“Of course, the legislature for a public health crisis has limited the ability of local governments to enact special emergency orders,“ Demings said. “We have the opportunity to do so but it has to be narrowly tailored for a public health, life and safety-related issue.”
The mayor said he’s monitoring the situation and isn’t at the point where he thinks it’s necessary to take legal action. He added that, “we’re exploring all of our options.”
“But if the numbers worsen, if we get to a point where we see we’re overrunning our hospitals or we potentially could overrun our hospitals then I’ll have to take action because then I could meet the high bar that the Legislature has established to ensure that we’re doing the right thing and we’re not infringing on individual rights,” Demings said.
He didn’t mention any specific action he would take, although he did say as mayor he could potentially have the legal authority to enact a mandate of some sort.
“It has to be narrowly tailored and it has to be related to a major public health crisis,” Demings said.
His goal for now is to get more people vaccinated to reduce the risk of transmission, hospitalizations and deaths. Right now, about 60% of the local eligible population is inoculated. The two-week positivity rate is 7.78% as of Monday.
Earlier this week, the mayor recommended residents resume wearing masks in crowded indoor locations, regardless of vaccination status.
Orange County initially issued a mask mandate in June 2020 that applied to anyone out in public. That mandate was deemed null and void earlier this year after the governor’s executive order banning government-enacted coronavirus restrictions.
Click here for a look at the latest COVID-19 numbers from the Florida Department of Health.