Among the topics discussed at Osceola County’s Executive Policy Group press conference, the county has announced a order that, beginning Monday, everyone in Osceola County public places must wear a face covering, not necessarily a mask.
The order, mimicking ones in place in Miami, Miramar and a few other Florida cities, will stay in place until revoked — “further notice”. Like the county’s 11-to-5 curfew, there are possible penalties (fines or misdemeanor jail sentences) for disregarding the order.
“It’s not punishment, it’s to curtail or stop the spread of this virus, and make a significant difference in the county for your safety,” Sheriff Russ Gibson said. “We absolutely don’t want to put people in custody or issues fines for this, that’s why we’re asking for compliance with this.”
Such a covering, under the CDC’s guidance, can help slow the spread of the disease, especially among those who are asymptomatic, helping prevent those who don’t know they have COVID-19.
A proper covering — NOT a surgical mask or N95 mask, which should be saved for health care workers — has uniform material covering the nose and mouth and stays in place without being held by a hand. This can be accomplished with a bandana, or a rolled t-shirt and rubber bands. There are exceptions for infants and those with medical conditions that preclude covering the mouth.
The county’s website has a link to a CDC page on how to make a mask with or without sewing, including a design that involves a bandana and coffee filter.
“Staying home is still the best defense,” County Commission Chair Viviana Janer said. “Social distancing when you have to go out is also critical to stopping the spread of this virus. These are difficult times for many, even as we celebrate holidays like Passover and Easter.”
The county’s Department of Health gave an update, covering:
- The cloth coverings can prevent people from unknowingly passing COVID-19 to others.
- The DOH is supporting high-priority testing of symptomatic patients. Health care partners call the DOH and collaborate testing. Many medical offices cannot accept specimens because of a lack of personal protection equipment (PPE), but the DOH Director Bianca McCluskey said the county is on the docket for providing an in-county public testing facility.
- Hospitals have implemented plans to expand bed capacity and maintain equipment and supplies to prepare for the worst-case scenario, the “tsunami of cases” spoken of in other parts of the country.
- Floridahealthcovid19.gov is the state’s leading source for coronavirus information; a new website, www.strongerthanc19.com, has a survey Floridians can fill out about their social distancing efforts and their current health.
Anyone having difficulty will access to health care should contact the Osceola DOH at 407-343-2000.
The following exemptions are cited in Friday’s order:
- Persons under the age of two years; and
- Persons for whom a face covering would cause impairment due to an existing health condition; and
- Persons working in a professional who do not have any face-to- face interactions with the public; and
- Persons working in a profession where use of a face covering will not be compatible with the duties of the profession; and
- Persons exercising, while observing social distancing in accordance with the CDC guidelines.
Emergency Operations Director Bill Litton said county operations remain at Level 1, it’s highest order. There’s a small team working out of the operations center and everyone else are working remotely.
The EOC is partnering with health care facilities who are preparing for medical surge, and has partner with local and regional distilleries who are supplying hand sanitizer that the EOC is providing to first responders.
A county business damage assessment, with input from 336 Osceola County businesses, shows an economic loss of $26.6 million, 1009 temporary layoffs and 163 permanent layoffs.
The city of Kissimmee has received 2,000 rental assistance applications, and is working wo the C of A to process checks for them. Additional help can be sought through the United Way by calling 2-1-1. Business in distress in Kissimmee should go to kissimmee.org to find links to resources.
Gibson asked people not to flock to Easter services with large congregations on Sunday.
“The church is the people inside the building, not the building, so stay safe,” he said.