ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Since kids 5 to 14 years of age still make up a majority of new cases, according to the county’s health department, the mayor is implementing a new mask policy for county-run after-school programs.
“Effective today, we will be requiring that the 300 plus children who participate in our programs, must wear a face mask while indoors as a public safety protocol. Children outside will not be required to wear face masks,” Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said.
The announcement comes as the county’s health department reports that kids ages 5 to 14 make up 19% of all new COVID-19 cases, the highest proportion of all other age groups.
Monday also marks the first day of a 60-day mask mandate for Orange County Public Schools. Monday, the district reported more than 3,000 positive cases with more than 1,400 students out of school in quarantine.
“As a reminder to parents, exposure to the virus is not limited to schools, it’s in the community, so the steps we are taking to protect your children in school should be something that you also model and follow at home,” Dr. Raul Pino with the county’s health department said.
While deaths from the virus are going up, according to Pino, the health department said cases have already peaked and are slowly starting to drop. The 14-day average positivity rate is 17.86%.
“It’s a promising side that we have plateaued, and the numbers are new cases are beginning to decline,” said Demings.
However, the demand for testing is still high. Demings reported that more than 7,000 COVID tests were administered over the weekend at the county-run testing sites.
County health officials said while cases are starting to go down, they don’t want people to relax when it comes to health and safety guidelines. They’re still encouraging those who are able, to get vaccinated so the county can get closer to herd immunity.