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Rene 'Coach P' Plasencia strongly recommends holding off school opening.

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Rene Plasencia urges mandatory masks in public

Orange County wrestles with rising infection rates.

Expressing strong concerns about the new surge in COVID-19 infections being identified in Florida, Republican Rep. Rene Plasencia is urging that Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings mandate that residents wear masks in public.

In a letter sent to Demings Wednesday, Plasencia, an eastern Orange County Representative, expressed concerns about reports that, contrary to statements from Gov. Ron DeSantis, a fellow Republican, the rise in coronavirus infections cannot be attributed merely to increased testing, or accepted as the cost of doing business.

Plasencia also pointed out that medical experts are convinced that face masks reduce the exposure to the virus, “potentially saving countless lives.”

“Over the last six days, Florida has seen an average increase of 2,138 Coronavirus cases daily. Many would have us believe that those numbers are expected given the gradual lifting of stay-at-home orders. The reality is that this extended first wave could’ve been avoided if everyone made the selfless decision to wear a face covering,” Plasencia wrote to Demings.

On Monday Demings expressed his own concerns as Orange County’s caseload and positive-test rate have both increased dramatically in recent weeks. The Mayor said he was considering an order that people wear masks in bars and restaurants. He has not yet issued such an order. His office has not yet responded to Plasencia’s letter.

“As a member of the legislature, there are many times that we must take difficult votes that aren’t popular, but are the right thing to do. In watching the devastation that COVID-19 is causing in our community, I strongly recommend that Orange County implement a mandatory use of face coverings when individuals are in a public setting,” Plasencia wrote. “This small gesture will have big consequences for the greater good.”

Demings has expressed concerns about having police enforcing face covering rules. Plasencia stressed that he is not calling for that, but rather for a show of public leadership by issuing a mandate.

“What I am not asking for is that law enforcement take on the burden of enforcing the use of masks and would hope that the public understands the importance of wearing one coming from the direction of your leadership,” Plasencia wrote.

In the past week, Orange County’s COVID-19 average daily case numbers have tripled compared with early June and the county’s average positive-test rate has more than doubled. The outbreak has been traced in part to University of Central Florida students reportedly packing campus-area bars without wearing masks. Both Orange and Seminole Counties are focusing coronavirus testing on that area this week.

Florida’s numbers, while climbing, are not doing so at the same rate as Orange or Seminole counties’. State-supplied data show that the Orlando area, Tampa Bay, and the Treasure Coast’s COVID-19 infections in particular are surging in the past couple of weeks.

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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