Governor moves Florida to Phase 3, Orange mayor responds

The governor's decision immediately removes previous restrictions on businesses and restaurants, but Orange County says the mask mandate still is in effect.

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Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a new executive order Friday, Sept. 25, that moves the state of Florida into the third phase of the reopening plan following the shutdown in March due to COVID-19. It is effective immediately.

This latest order eliminates all restrictions of the previous orders issued in the spring and summer.

Orange County tweeted a response from Mayor Jerry Demings Monday, Sept. 28, stating the county's mask mandate still is in effect and reminding residents and businesses to remain diligent with social distancing.

“No COVID-19 emergency ordinance may prevent an individual from working or from operating a business,” the governor's executive order read.

“Restaurants, including any establishment with a food service license, may not be limited by a COVID-19 emergency order by any local government to less than 50% of their indoor capacity,” the order continued.

Restaurants limited to less than 100% of its indoor capacity must quantify the economic impact of each limitation and explain why it is necessary for public health.

The county's also responded on Twitter with the following:

"• Local, state and nation are still under Public Health State of Emergency for COVID-19.

• Businesses can and should still require masks.

• While restaurants/bars may operate at 100% occupancy, we encourage businesses to review their insurance policies and take note, as there may be liability risk if a person(s) contracts COVID-19 at your restaurant/bar.

• Strike teams will continue to proactively visit businesses, offer free PPE and provide guidance to comply with (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines to remain open safely.

• The county will continue to provide free COVID testing and connect residents and business owners with CARES programs and resources."

DeSantis declared a state of emergency for all of Florida March 9. He initiated the first phase of the “Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step. Plan for Florida’s Recovery” April 29, followed by the full Phase 1 May 14. The second phase of the “Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step. Plan” began June 3.

Orange County Public Schools released its own announcement in response to the governor's announcement:

“The school district is waiting for written direction regarding this order,” OCPS officials wrote. “In the meantime, there will be no change to our requirements for social distancing, the wearing of masks and the sanitizing of our schools and work locations.”

After evaluating the governor’s orders, OCPS will provide direction regarding any changes.

“We want to assure you that any changes will be done thoughtfully and strategically so as not to jeopardize the health, safety and welfare of our students and employees,” OCPS said.




Amy Quesinberry

Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.

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