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Orange County Strike Teams Prepared To Fine Businesses Which Flout Pandemic Rules

Image: Orange TV
Image: Orange TV

Orange County’s compliance task force will be out Tuesday to make sure businesses are adhering to mask wearing and social distancing rules. 

Businesses that aren’t in compliance could be fined. 

Speaking at a press conference Monday evening, Mayor Jerry Demings said businesses will be given multiple chances to follow the rules. 

“Let's just hope that the few repeat offenders- as you all know, I call them the bad actors-- shape up and take measures to slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Demings.

The county-wide emergency order requires businesses to ensure staff and customers wear masks and maintain 6 feet of social distancing where possible, use plexiglass barriers to increase the distance between staff and patrons, and place signs notifying customers of the rules. 

Penalties for non-compliance include a sliding scale of fines, beginning with a fine of up to $5-hundred dollars for the first citation. 

Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended the collection of fines for non-compliance levied on individuals, but the statewide executive order does not mention fines on businesses. 

Orange County's October Tourist Tax Revenue worst since the month after 9-11

Orange County’s Tourist Development Tax collections for October were nearly 70% lower than the same time last year. 

Central Florida’s tourism economy has been pummeled by the pandemic- with Disney operating at just 35% capacity and thousands of layoffs across the tourism and hospitality industry. 

The county collected just over $7.7 million dollars in TDT revenue in October- the lowest collection since the October right after the September 11 terrorist attacks. 

“That's about a 69% decrease from last year's numbers," said County Comptroller Phil Diamond.

Diamond said there’s some good news in the latest returns. 

"However, on the positive side, that is the sixth straight month of increase since we hit rock bottom in April of this year.”

Diamond said the county has used more than $88-million in reserves since April to make up for TDT revenue shortfalls.

Holiday celebrations "cannot be the same as last year"

Orange County’s top health official is urging residents to protect themselves and others from coronavirus over the holidays. 

"Our holidays are not going to be where they were last year," said Raul Pino, the health officer for the Florida Department of Health in Orange County.

"It can't be. The celebrations cannot be the same."

Pino said people need to adhere to CDC guidelines and consider wearing masks indoors during holiday gatherings to protect the elderly and vulnerable.

The county reported some 1,600 new cases since Friday, including 571 cases Monday. 

The 14-day positivity rate is 6.3%

Pino said increases in the case numbers and positivity rate are "minor but significant." 

“Why they are significant- because this pandemic explodes, when it's going to transmit. It goes from 50 [cases] one day and you get up next day and you have 200, and you get up next day and then you have 800.  And this is very important that we adhere to CDC guidelines now, to prevent what is happening in other parts of the country.”

Orange County has seen more than 62,000 cases and some 658 people have died from COVID-19.