Orange County ditching mask mandate starting Saturday

Mayor Jerry Demings gave his State of Orange County Address highlighting local accomplishments and challenges over the past year as well as plans moving forward.

The biggest announcement to come out of this is that Orange County is no longer under a local state of emergency and will be entering phase three of the opening plan. Which means masks and social distancing guidelines will be lifted.

After 14 straight days of a low positivity rate under 5-percent, Mayor Demings says all COVID-19 mandates will be lifted on Saturday.

"We are back on course for destination greatness!"

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Orange County entered a state of emergency 15 months ago as the pandemic began. The past year faced unimaginable challenges and more than 1,300 Orange County residents died due to COVID-19.

The unemployment rate in the region peaked at 22.6-percent, Walt Disney World closed for the longest period of time in their history, and tourism hit rock bottom.

"We persevered through tough times and found strength in one another. We are indeed safer, stronger, together."

The school system went virtual to make sure students could still receive an education while in a lockdown.

Mayor Demings cites support from the county and federal CARES Act funding to help struggling businesses and residents stay afloat.

Healthcare workers on the frontlines worked tirelessly staffing testing sites to mass vaccination sites -- all in an effort to combat the virus and protect the community.

"Unsung heroes in our community – our healthcare workers! They are the key reason we are at this point today."

Looking forward, the county has plans in motion to tackle affordable housing challenges and expand transportation with Brightline to meet the growing needs of our mass transit infrastructure.

People are getting back to work, unemployment is now at 5.6-percent and the Orlando International Airport is in the top five busiest airports in the nation.

"The heavy clouds of COVID-19 that hung over our region are dissipating and our economy is growing again. By mid-summer, I believe we will be over the acute phase of the virus and our economic engines will be in full throttle."

Watch FOX 35 News for updates.