ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Orange County’s local state of emergency will be allowed to expire at 3 p.m. Wednesday, nearly three months after Mayor Jerry Demings signed an executive order declaring it.
Demings announced the expiration amid an ongoing decline in the number of new COVID-19 infections.
“This last wave of COVID cases that began in late June made for an extremely challenging time for everyone, including hospitals and emergency officials. You may remember that in August, the delta variant claimed the lives of some 410 of our residents and continues to claim lives even today,” Demings said.
Demings said that new infections have plummeted since August, crediting the number of people getting vaccinated against the coronavirus and masking for the decline.
“The 14-day positivity rate is recorded at 3.51% — making the rate at 5% or below for 17 consecutive days in a row,” he said.
While Demings is allowing the state of emergency to expire, he said he will “reserve the right to put the executive order back in place to make sure we do everything possible to slow the spread,” should another wave of infections arise.
Despite the state of emergency expiring, Demings said he will still require county employees to wear facial coverings in all county facilities “until the CDC moves our county from substantial risk of transmission to moderate (risk).”
Though the mayor said he will “require” masking for county employees that requirement may not be enforceable because of SB 1924, which was signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in May, which prevents the county from collecting fines or imposing other penalties against people who do not follow masking orders.
The mayor added that the county had 34 additional deaths from COVID-19 reported since last week, including a corrections officer at the Orange County Jail.
“If I could have done anything to preclude that officer from getting COVID-19, I certainly would have done it,” Demings said. “Not sure how he got it. If a coworker who was unvaccinated brought it into work and gave it to him or not — or some other citizen.”
Demings did not provide the corrections officer’s name but said that he had been among those taken hostage when an inmate was able to smuggle a gun into the jail’s intake area last year.
“I consider that correctional officer one of the heroes,” he said.
The mayor commented on his personal disappointment at how the most recent wave of infections became “politicized in the last three months.”
“I’ve been on the ground over the years as a first responder... at all levels, making some critical decisions. I know what I know about crisis management and so we have this insertion of outside influences into the circumstances that we’ve had to deal with. (It’s) remarkable to me,” the mayor said, though he did not elaborate on what “outside influences” to which he was referring.
Demings also announced Wednesday that the county’s testing site at the Econ Soccer Complex would close after Halloween, leaving Barnet Park as the county’s sole testing facility.