October 4, 2022

Central Florida counties react to governor’s ban on local restrictions, phase 3

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis enacted a measure Friday that will prohibit local county and municipal governments from implementing their own capacity restrictions in response to the coronavirus.

The governor said he would sign an executive order lifting capacity limits at restaurants and is also enacting a measure that will prohibit local governments from capping capacity at anything less than 50%. Statewide, there will be no capacity restrictions. This falls under phase three of the governor’s reopening plan.

Some counties have implemented restrictions beyond the governor’s orders. For example, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings issued a county-wide mask mandate requiring residents and visitors to wear masks while in public places. Osceola and Seminole have similar orders in place.

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For the most part, county leaders around the Central Florida region have said the new order won’t impact any current or future local policies aimed at combating the virus.

Brevard County government currently has no restrictions in place, according to Brevard County director of communications Don Walker.

“Our Board of County Commissioners have fallen in line with orders that have been handed down by the governor, and we have also asked residents to follow CDC recommendations in terms of social distancing, avoiding large gatherings and wearing masks,” Walker said in an email. “It’s possible our Board could choose to do otherwise at some point in time, but there are no automatic decisions being made and, therefore, we will not be asking businesses to do anything short of what the governor allows in his order.”

A spokesperson for Flagler County said the order will likely have no impacts on any local mandates implemented due to COVID-19.

Marion County public information specialist Stacie Causey said areas within unincorporated Marion County have been aligned with the governor’s phases since April 24.

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings held a coronavirus briefing Friday about 30 minutes after the official executive order was signed by the governor. He had not had time to fully review the order but expressed his frustration that local leaders were not given more notice.

“I’m disappointed about this because as we deal with this pandemic everything happens at the local level. This is where the rubber meets the road and in order for us to be effective at dealing with the virus, we have to have good communications,” Demings said.

The mayor said it’s difficult for local leaders to respond to questions about the order when they know nothing about it in advance.

“We have been put in a position this afternoon where numerous businesses have called us and it really isn’t a good look for a governor when we are not all on the same sheet of music,” Demings said.

The county attorney was still reviewing the governor’s order.

The Orange County mask mandate will remain in place, Demings said.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said people can still avoid places of business they feel are unsafe.

“Irrespective of the governor’s order today I encourage everybody to continue to exercise pandemic precautions continue to wear your mask continue to social distance, continue to practice appropriate hygiene,” Dyer said.

Osceola County government officials were still reviewing the order at the time of this story and did not have a response. This story will be updated when they can respond.

Sumter County administrator Bradley Arnold said in an email the governor’s order, “will assist the businesses to stay in business and allow more employees to return to work,” adding there are no local mandates in place.

A Volusia County government spokesperson said the area has no countywide mandates; “however, the county strongly encourages the tenets of our Step Up Volusia campaign: Wash Up. Back Up. Mask Up.” Restaurants and bars fall under state management by Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

News 6 is gathering responses from additional counties in the region. Check back for updates to this story.

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