ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said late Friday that the county’s mandate on facial coverings remains in place, even after Gov. Ron DeSantis lifted restrictions on restaurants and suspended penalties for refusal to wear a mask.
What You Need To Know
- Orange County leaders express concern over Phase 3 reopening
- County, city mayors said they were caught off guard by order
- Demings: There might be opening to reestablish some capacity limits
- RELATED: Florida Lifts COVID-19 Restaurant Rules, Halts Mask Penalties
Demings suggested that he might also have an opening to reestablish some limits on restaurant capacity.
"We’re going to do what we need to do here at a local level to keep our citizens safe,” he said. “It’s just that simple to me.”
Demings made his comments at a county news conference that also included Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Orange County Health Officer Dr. Raul Pino. The coronavirus news conference — a regular event in Orange County since March — came hours after DeSantis announced his executive order.
All three Central Florida leaders expressed concern about the governor’s order, which allows restaurants and other establishments with a food service license to operate at a minimum of 50 percent capacity as part of the state’s Phase 3 reopening.
DeSantis also said all penalties or fines for refusing to wear masks will be suspended.
Though the governor’s order supersedes local orders, Demings emphasized that the countywide mask mandate stands.
“As I read the executive order, the governor did not eliminate the local jurisdictions’s authority to issue facial covering orders,” Demings said. “What he eliminated was the penalty portion of such orders, and we don’t have a penalty phase associated with our order ... That’s my interpretation of it at this point.”
Demings said “our legal team is reviewing the executive order to see what implications there are for us here at the local level.”
Regarding restaurant capacity, Demings said a provision in the order would allow local governments to restrict capacity to less than 100 percent. A local government would have to quantify the economic impact on the business and why it is necessary for public health, Demings said.
As more businesses open, Dyer urged residents to wear masks and to exercise precautions, including social distancing.
“And I would encourage you, if you see a business that you don’t feel comfortable going into, don’t go into that business,” Dyer said. “If they’re not wearing masks, you don’t have to go in there.”
He urged businesses to “heed the call to operate safely.”
“It looks as though local governments can’t control whether people are wearing masks,” Dyer said. “As a business owner, you can prohibit people who are not wearing masks from coming into your place of business to protect your customers and protect your workers.”
In his announcement, DeSantis said that statewide, coronavirus hospitalizations were down and survival rates were at 94 percent. Yet Demings said Orange County on Friday saw in increase of 172 cases in one day and 13 deaths since Monday.
Pino, the county health official, warned that those numbers could worsen.
“Any increase in social activity of any kind will increase indubitably the number of cases,” he said. “The question is how much and, again, what measures we’re putting in place that will prevent (spreading).”
“We have the same concern with the schools,” he added, “and we are pleasantly surprised that the numbers have not exploded from the interaction in the schools.”
The county and city mayors said the governor’s announcement caught them off guard. Demings said he didn’t receive the actual order until around 4 p.m. Friday, hours after the governor made his announcement and minutes before the coronavirus news conference.
“We’ve been put in a position this afternoon where numerous businesses have called us, and it really isn’t a good look for government when we are not all on the same sheet of music,” Demings said, “and so I just hope the governor does better with that.”
Dyer said he found out about the governor’s order from a local business owner who seemed displeased.
“A bar owner called me and said, ‘What’s Gov. DeSantis doing?’” Dyer said. “They were taken unaware. They were assuming they were going to do some different configurations of their establishment.”