Jerry Demings declares new COVID-19 emergency in Orange County

Jerry Demings
Demings requiring many county employees to get vaccinated, wear masks.

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings declared a new state of emergency for his county as COVID-19 cases surge to new worst-ever levels.

Demings’ order urges other public and private sector employers, including big ones like Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando, to require masks indoors and require employees to get vaccinated.

It urges county residents to wear masks in indoor gathering spaces.

His order also requires that Orange County employees wear masks indoors and mandates that all nonunion employees get vaccinated, with a first shot due by the end of August.

Citing exploding and disturbing new trends of COVID-19 cases — what he said was a county one-day record of 1,371 new cases confirmed Tuesday, a record positive test rate, and rapidly increasing admissions at area hospitals — Demings said the community is in crisis.

“The crisis continues in our area hospitals, and they are seeing a significant and swift increase in COVID patients,” Demings said.

Orange County is participating in a national study tapping data collected from wastewater to look for COVID-19 RNA. Those findings are showing a rapid increase right now, Demings said, meaning county officials are expecting things to get worse soon.

“I don’t want to see another person die. I don’t want to see another person test positive in our community. But what I do know is that if we keep seeing 1,000 new cases a day, hospitalizations will continue to go up. People will die,” Demings said.

He also made his case that the crisis is or could soon become an economic problem if (and when) the tourism and convention organizers and customers get nervous about the surge of COVID-19 in Orange County.

Demings said a major conference has just been canceled at the Orange County Convention Center: “That’s a $12 to $15 million economic loss for our community.”

He also is reconvening his Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force. The goal is to keep the economy fully open, Demings said.

To do that, he added, precautions must be implemented to assure that it is safe. That is particularly important as the world’s tourists decide whether it is safe to travel to Orlando, he said.

“If we pull together, we can avoid a collapse of our economy that would be self-inflicted,” Demings said. “We have the solutions that can help keep our economy churning.”

Demings order requiring county employee vaccinations covers only the Orange County employees who work under his administration. The order immediately affects the 4,200 nonunion employees. The county is negotiating with unions to develop standards for the 3,400 union members as well, Demings said. Employees who meet legal standards for exemptions will be exempted.

Orange County employees who work under the county’s six constitutional officers, including the thousands of sheriff’s deputies under Sheriff John Mina, will not be affected by Demings’ order. Demings urged the constitutional officers to develop their own orders.

One already has. Orange County Tax Collector Scott Randolph announced mask and vaccination requirements for his employees Monday.

Demings said employees who refuse will be disciplined, but he said firings would only come after progressive disciplinary actions.

“We have researched this in terms of our legal authority to do mandates, and our county attorney says we are on solid legal ground,” Demings said.

A representative of Orange County Public Schools said the school Board has the authority to increase its requirements based on guidelines from local officials or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Students report in 13 days.

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]


3 comments

  • Bobbi Lee Neilsen

    July 28, 2021 at 6:20 pm

    Thank you Jerry – wish to God you were governor of Florida! Especially during this pandemic. DeSantis has been a complete imbecile throughout! History will be on the side of what is right and good. Continue to stand up for us and be heard.

    • Mark Niles

      July 30, 2021 at 10:11 am

      What happened to my body my right Bobbi? This is nothing more than the initiation of communist rule with control over the populace and their bodies. Control is the goal at the expense of our freedom. As soon as someone you don’t agree with takes over and uses the same dictatorial policies to curb your freedom you will be crying for relief from the overreach of government.

  • Bobbi

    July 30, 2021 at 1:22 pm

    Mark, my body my right? Really? When your body can infect the innocent, you become a murderer. I personally don’t give a fig if you get sick or die but WE THE PEOPLE have a responsibility to do what is right and good as a member of society. Stop comparing your personal “freedoms” with science and humanity. BTW did you receive the typical vaccines during childhood? Well thank science and the good sense of your parent(s). Now as an adult you think you are smarter than science? Delusion and denial can be a healthcare issue – just saying…I’m done with imbeciles
    and selfish a holes and turning off notifications. Can’t educate the stupid.

Comments are closed.


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