Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings has declared a coronavirus state-of-emergency nightly curfew for county residents and visitors from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m., until further notice.
At a press conference Friday at the Orange County Emergency Operations Center, Demings, joined by Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and others, announced his emergency action to declare the curfew to stop the spread of the new coronavirus. He said it is not unlike curfews the county has often called during hurricane emergencies, and will be administered similarly.
The curfew will have exceptions for first responders, health care providers and others “who have an essential need,” as well as for people traveling to and from work.
Demings said the hours of the six-hour curfew were determined after consultations with the Orange County Sheriff, other local law enforcement offices, surrounding counties, and others. He noted that many businesses, including theme parks, many hotels, bars, and others, already are closed.
“We believe that for the most part, businesses who are still operating will have concluded their work by that time,” Demings said of the 11 p.m. start.
Demings said there is no current reason to consider the next step, a 24-hour shelter in place order. But he did not rule it out for the future.
“If the numbers continue to increase we likely will end up at that point. That is what we are trying to avoid,” Deming said.
Orange County Sheriff John Mina said of the curfew, “We think this is needed.”
Added Dr. Raul Pino, Orange County health director with the Florida Department of Health: “The only thing we ask of the community is to stay home, so that we can go home too, soon.”
“We want people to stay home. We’re not looking to arrest people,” Mina said. “But we want people, for their safety, for the safety of this community, to remain at home.”
To date, Orange County has had 22 cases, including four non-residents, Pino said.
Demings and others also expressed some frustration over the slow start to testing in Orange County. To date, county health officials have tested only 61 people, according to data posted by the Florida Department of Health. County officials were expecting federal authorities to have a drive-through testing site set up at the Orange County Convention Center by Friday, but it was not ready to go. Demings said he now hopes it will be operating early next week.
However, Pino said he has the capacity to test people who meet federal guidelines as highly-likely COVID-19 cases. Pino said some private doctors are able to do testing through private labs, but no one is ready to do any mass testing in Orange County.
“We’re all frustrated about that but we have been working very closely with the state and federal government. We do now have some supplies here in the state and they are being distributed,” Demings said. “All I can say is it is what it is.”