Orange County mayor asks businesses to require face masks again

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings is asking businesses to once again require face masks indoors as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the county.

Health officials said new COVID cases in Orange County are back to what they were in January. The 14-day rolling positivity rate is 11.2 percent compared to 4.28 percent three weeks ago.

"That is nearly triple what we were experiencing three weeks ago," Mayor Demings said during a news conference Monday morning. The total positive COVID cases in Orange County is 154,674.

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He is also encouraging business owners to require customers to wear masks indoors again, regardless of their vaccination status. An executive order by Governor Ron DeSantis prevents Mayor Demings from instituting a mask mandate, but Demings is calling on businesses to do it voluntarily.

Evan Dimov, the owner of "Too Much Sauce" restaurant, said he is confused by the different guidelines and suggestions from the local, state, and federal governments and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

"Just give me one rule to follow and I’ll follow," Dimov said.

Dimov said he is afraid of losing business if he requires customers to wear face masks indoors again. He said he asks unvaccinated customers and staff to wear masks.

"Some people might just not want to wear a mask and what am I going to do, lose those customers? I cannot afford to lose customers right now. We came way too far to go back this way."

Mayor Demings is also still encouraging people to get vaccinated. Officials said of the nearly 2,000 people who tested positive for COVID in Orange County from Friday-Sunday none of them were vaccinated against COVID.

"We cannot emphasize enough the need for residents to get vaccinated from this deadly disease."

Mayor Demings announced the COVID vaccination and testing site at Barnett Park will remain open seven days a week from 9 a.m.- 5 p.m. through the end of August.

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