ORLANDO, Fla. — Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings on Friday lifted the local state of emergency put in place to fight the spread of the coronavirus and said the county would move to the next phase of its reopening plan.
What You Need To Know
- Starting Saturday, all local COVID-19 rules will be lifted for Orange County
- County Mayor Jerry Demings said the 14-day positivity rate would be 5% or lower
- Demings also said the local state of emergency is lifted, effective immediately
- RELATED: Orange County mayor rolls out new mask rules, reopening phases
The announcement was made during Demings' State of the County address at the Orange County Convention Center.
Demings said Orange County Department of Health projections indicate that the 14-day rolling positivity rate in the area is at 5% or below, allowing officials to move to Phase 3 and lift all coronavirus restrictions.
He also said about 60% of the eligible population is now vaccinated in the county.
"Our 14-day positivity rate has been below 5%, which signifies we've well contained the virus within our community," Demings said Friday. "And if we are vaccinated and the virus is contained, there really is no reason why we should not return to some sense of normalcy."
Because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still has mask and social distancing guidelines in place for unvaccinated people, businesses can still require masks, and people in the community can still opt to wear them, regardless of vaccination status, he said.
Demings also expressed optimism about the county's economy, hoping it will be just a few months before it can get back on its feet. He highlighted the county's unemployment rate is now at 5.6%, down from a high unemployment rate of 22.6% last year, with Central Florida theme park attendance and airport traffic sharply rising.
In late April, Demings announced a phased plan to move the county out of its state of emergency and back to pre-pandemic conditions that depended on increasing vaccination rates and decreasing positive-case rates. That move came shortly after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can safely walk, exercise, gather and dine outdoors in small groups, without masks. Phase 1, according to Demings, included relaxing physical distancing guidelines from 6 to 3 feet.
According to the plan, the county would move to Phase 2 when 50% of Orange County residents 16 and older had received at least one dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. People could go without masks outdoors, but they would still be required indoors.
However, the enforcement of this mandate has been unclear, with Demings clashing with Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis over local and state emergency orders. Last month, DeSantis issued a state executive order suspending all local orders.
Phase 3, which Demings said would begin Saturday, lifts all mask-wearing and physical-distancing requirements in previous emergency executive orders.
This is a breaking news story and will be updated. Check back for more.