Jerry Demings signs order to fine Orange Co. businesses for not masking
Screen shot from Orange County.

Jerry Demings
The county will fine $500 a day for first time violations.

In defiance of Gov. Ron DeSantis‘s efforts to prevent or at least discourage local coronavirus mandates, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings on Friday signed an executive order requiring business in the county to require social distancing and mask-wearing or face fines.

Demings’ executive order is directed at businesses he said are “bad actors” that are few, but accelerating the new resurgence of COVID-19 pandemic. On Friday, Orange County saw 601 newly-confirmed coronavirus cases, pushing the county’s total over 60,000. Six deaths this week pushed the county’s death total to 651.

“When we give the cumulative numbers, they represent real human beings. It saddens me to see the numbers grow because it means another family has been touched by COVID,” Demings said.

“I am therefore compelled to take action,” he said.

That action is his Executive Order 2020-51, which will take place at 12;01 a.m. Sunday.

It will affect the entire county, including businesses in the municipalities of Orlando and all the incorporated suburbs.

For months Demings had said he was reluctant to take punitive actions. Friday he said time and trends changed his mind, particularly as he spoke with individuals and families hit hard by COVID-19, especially going into the holiday season. He said health advisors told him “we are on the cusp of danger.”

In September, DeSantis ordered Phase Three of reopening Florida and said the move would preempt any fines and punishments attached to local rules regarding individuals, and has discouraged, though not forbidden, other local mandates, including regarding businesses. Yet since then, mask ordinances have continued to stand up to court challenges.

Demings said he could not say whether his order would conflict with DeSantis’s.

“I dunno; I can’t speak for the Governor,” Demings said. But he expressed confidence that the Orange County order could stand up to legal challenges.

Demings pointed out that Orange County and Florida remain under states of emergency, allowing for such extraordinary authority in executive orders.

“I’m not worried about any particular conflict between what I’m trying to do here on behalf of our residents, and what the Governor is doing,” Demings said.

Demings’ order, signed just before he held a press conference late Friday, requires Orange County businesses to require social distancing of six feet “as much as is possible;” facial coverings for employees and visitors on the business premises; telecommuting and staggered work schedules wherever possible; and appropriate signage.

If county code enforcement or law enforcement officers find businesses refusing, they can be fined $500 a day. If a case is taken to a special magistrate, the fine can be increased to $1,000 a day for first violations and $5,000 a day for repeat violations. If a special magistrate concludes that a violation is irreparable or irreversible in nature the business can be fined $15,000o for each violation.

Demings already has had orders in place for businesses to follow CDC guidelines for social distancing, and set up enforcement strike teams to check on them. He said they have made 5,600 business visits and 98% of the visited businesses either were in compliance or went into compliance by a second visit.

He said businesses still out of compliance on a third visit likely will be hit with fines. He said that will be retroactive, to cover the visits already in the strike teams’ records.

Demings said bars and nightclubs have been the greatest violators.

“Our goal is simple. It is to target the few bad actors,” Demings said. “I call them bad actors because these are the ones who act like they care about safety of others when in fact they only care about their own bottom lines. They put profit over people.”

Scott Powers

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 [email protected].


  • Sonja Fitch

    December 5, 2020 at 7:22 am

    The simplest act to protect from the covid is to wear a mask! Wear a mask! Fine em! Masks are just like seat belts! Common good for all! Actually would like to see them put in jail for slow motion murder.

  • Marconi

    December 5, 2020 at 7:44 am

    vote this clown hat out next time!!!

Comments are closed.


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