Orange mayor requires all people to wear masks in county

Tribune Content Agency

ORLANDO, Fla. — Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said Thursday that every person in the county must wear a mask, an effort to try to stem a resurgence of the coronavirus seen in the past 10 days.

“We do not want to experience another shutdown in our community,” Demings said, noting there could be more restrictions in the future.

The order will take effect on Saturday and remain in place indefinitely. People are permitted to take off the mask while eating or drinking, but must wear the mask as they enter establishments, Demings said. Employees of businesses must wear a face covering at all times.

“We’re buying time with this measure,” Demings said until a vaccine or cure for the virus is found.

There will not be any criminal sanctions for violations at this time, Demings said, adding “that’s the last thing we want to do.”

Demings’ decision came as the state reported a new daily record of 3,207 coronavirus cases Thursday. There have now been 85,926 cases and 3,061 deaths statewide, which includes an additional 43 fatalities reported Thursday.

Demings said he sent a copy of his order to Gov. Ron DeSantis and suggested a statewide mask order, but the governor has not responded.

Other cities across the state announced similar orders on Thursday, including Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman. The Florida Keys is also requiring people to wear masks, an order that lasts until June 1, 2021.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said the county order will cover the city as well and urged people to wear masks even in the Florida humidity.

“The virus is not only still here in our community, but it’s expanding in our community,” Dyer said.

Dr. Raul Pino, the state health department’s officer in Orange, said he is monitoring a number of outbreaks across the county including at five bars, a grocery store, a long-term care facility and some workplaces, including a construction company.

“So it’s all over the place,” Pino said.

He did not name the long-term care facility where 16 patients and five staff members tested positive, but said he found out about the cases there only after county paramedics informed his office that they’d transported several patients from the same facility. The lab the facility was using for virus tests was not reporting its results to the state, Pino said.

“In this case, we didn’t know. It was not notified to us, it happened really fast,” he said. “I’m more optimistic today than I was Monday.”

He said there are 152 cases linked to two ZIP codes that include off-campus student housing for the University of Central Florida. A UCF spokesman said earlier this week that at least 78 cases have been linked to the university since the start of the pandemic, most of them since June 1.

Pino said the median age of infected people associated with the university is 21 years old. Overall, the median age of people who have tested positive in Orange has dropped to 29 for the previous two weeks, Pino said.

Orange County reported 212 coronavirus cases Thursday, shattering its previous record set earlier this week and the rate of positive tests was in the double digits for the second consecutive day, a clear sign that the virus is again spreading in Central Florida.

Pino also announced the county’s 48th death on Thursday, a Hispanic woman died on June 13. He said she was exposed to another infected person and did not have any other underlying health conditions, but did not provide her age.

The virus has seen a resurgence across Central Florida over the past 10 days after the region effectively flattened the curve in April and May by closing businesses and ordering residents to stay at home except for essential errands.

Neighboring Seminole County reported 59 new cases on Wednesday, the greatest number of cases since widespread testing began in early March.

Seminole also saw the number of patients with COVID-19 in county hospitals jump from 15 a day earlier to 25. Fourteen people have died of complications from COVID-19 in Seminole County.

According to data from the state’s Department of Health and Seminole, the county has conducted a total of 27,315 tests. Of those, 985 have tested positive, 504 have recovered and 481 are currently infected.

Seminole officials reported 95 cases — 72 of which were people between the ages of 18 and 30 — since June 12 in the 32765 and 32766 ZIP codes that include most of Oviedo and border the north end of UCF’s campus. It’s an area that county officials have called a “hot spot” because of the extraordinarily high number of cases compared to the rest of Seminole.

Elsewhere in Central Florida, Osceola County added 25 new cases Thursday with 7.1% of tests coming back positive, and Lake County reported 26 new cases with 4.1% of tests positive.


(Martin E. Comas of the Sentinel staff contributed to this report.)


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