SANFORD, Fla. — Seminole County on Monday became the latest Central Florida government that mandated masks for indoor places open to the public.

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The county also issued new social distancing requirements for "places of assembly, businesses and other places open to the public."

The order goes into effect July 1. The county says the goal of the order is to get voluntary compliance, but if they have complaints about places that don't follow the rules, the authorities will be able to handle it.

The order applies to both unincorporated and incorporated parts of the county (i.e. cities).

County leaders said that reports of businesses having to close because employees and patrons had gotten sick were a major factor in the decision. 

"Seminole County continues to believe we can rebuild the economy and stay safe at the same time," said county emergency manager Alan Harris. "These are not mutually exclusive concepts."

The face coverings rule is required for everyone working, living or visiting in the county if social distancing is not possible, particularly indoors. 

The order includes several exemptions for the face covering rule, including for health cases, the hard of hearing, people exercising outdoors while maintaining social distancing, and eating or drinking.

Seminole County issued a social distancing order in March, as coronavirus cases started to climb. It included occupancy and group gathering limits, and also required employees and customers be at least 6 feet apart. That order was eased about a month later.

This new order is less stringent, but county leaders say it enforces the guidelines set by the CDC.

Since the start of June though cases have increased throughout the state, and in Seminole County. Seminole Commission Chair Jay Zembrower says cases have doubled since June 22, and there is definite community spread, with 92 cases currently hospitalized.

Dr. Timothy Hendrix with AdventHealth has seen a steady increase in cases at their facilities since Memorial Day. 

Hendrix said at first they saw largely younger people coming into CentraCare urgent care centers, but now the cases are trending older, and they are seeing more cases in the hospital.

"I can tell you at CentraCare right now, 21 percent of our tests are coming back positive that we're doing in our urgent care," Hendrix said. "At its worst during the previous surge back in April, that number was 12 percent. So it gives you some perspective on how pervasive this virus is in our community."

The county wanted to reiterate that at the moment, Seminole County's hospitals were not overwhelmed, but they wanted to be proactive so that didn't happen, especially since they were already seeing people on ventilators again.

Florida recorded 114 new cases of coronavirus in Seminole County for June 28 in its latest county report. Over 1,100 new daily cases have been reported since June 22, according to the state. 

Hendrix said he wanted to make it loud and clear that wearing a mask was the single best way to prevent transmission of the virus.

"Part of the social contract of being out in the community and getting back to normal is going to be wearing these masks," Hendrix said.