Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings is easing county requirements on mask-wearing, allowing people to go without in some circumstances now and setting touchstones for when mask requirements would be further lifted and ended altogether.
Under an executive order Demings signed Wednesday, Orange County residents are now allowed to go maskless outdoors alone or in small gatherings and may reduce social distancing to just three feet, from six feet in his earlier order.
Phase 2 of Demings’ order kicks in once 50% of the county’s population ages 16 or older has received a first dose of the vaccine. That would lift facial coverings outdoors for all people in all circumstances, but masks still would be required for indoors, except when someone is eating or dining.
Phase 3 kicks in once 70% of the population ages 16 or older have received their first dose of the vaccine, or Orange County’s 14-day rolling positive COVID-19 test rate falls to 5% or lower. All mask mandates would then be lifted.
Demings otherwise urged people to consult with and follow national guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“As I have said many, many times, we in Orange County follow and continue to follow the science to guide our decision-making process,” Demings stated in a news release. “After reviewing research from multiple sources, including the University of Central Florida, the Florida Department of Health and doctors from local hospitals, I am including that guidance in a phased approach to amend my Face Covering Executive Order. My goal is to give guidance to the community as we continue to navigate through the pandemic.”
Demings first issued his mask order on June 18, 2020, during the first wave of the COVID-19 surge. That executive order included fines for businesses that would not require employees and patrons to wear masks.
Demings first suggested on April 5 that he expected to end mask requirements sometime this spring.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has muted local mask ordinances by forbidding local governments from enforcing them. The Governor has evolved into a leading political voice against mask usage.
Demings remains a strong proponent of mask usage. Orange County has continued enforcing Demings’ orders, though without fines.