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Orange County Mayor announces 3-phase plan for relaxing mask use, social distancing

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Norine Dworkin

Founding Editor

Thursday, April 29, 2021


Norine Dworkin/VoxPopuli

Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings at Wednesday's presser: " There’s light at the end of the tunnel.”

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Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings announced Wednesday a new three-phase plan to start easing requirements on social distancing and mask use. Last June, Demings issued an executive order requiring the use of masks in public spaces, both indoors and outside. The three-phase plan is based on new guidelines for outdoor mask use released yesterday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

Currently, Orange County is in Phase 1. Social distancing requirements have been reduced to three feet from six feet “in all settings,” Demings said.

Meanwhile, the mayor said that fully vaccinated people should follow the CDC’s latest guidelines regarding mask use. That means 14 days after receiving their final shot, fully vaccinated people no longer need masks when outside — except in crowded spaces. Fully vaccinated people also don’t need masks or to social distance while indoors with other vaccinated people or unvaccinated people of the same household (including children) who are at low risk for Covid-19.

Masks are still needed in indoor public spaces, large and small, and when getting together with people from multiple households and unvaccinated people who are at high risk for Covid-19.

In Phase 2, Orange County will completely lift the outdoor mask requirement once 50 percent of the population 16 and older has gotten their first vaccine. Indoor masks will still be required, except when dining.

Raul Pino, MD, MPH, of the Florida Department of Health in Orange County, estimated that Orange County could reach Phase 2 within the next three weeks if the current pace of vaccinations continue.

“Or we could vaccinate more people and get there quicker,” he added.

Orange County will enter Phase 3 once 70 percent of the population 16 and older has gotten their first vaccine shot and when the rolling positivity rate stays at 5 percent or below for 14 days. Then the mask mandate will be completely lifted, indoors and outdoors.

“Seventy percent seems to be the lowest number that science agrees that we’ve achieved some level of herd immunity,” Dr. Pino said.

Demings noted that 43.4 percent of Orange County has gotten at least one dose of vaccine, and the 14-day rolling positivity rate is 8 percent.

Infection risk declines by 80 percent 14 days after the first shot with both the Pfizer and Modern vaccines; two weeks after the second shot with either vaccine, protection increases to 90 percent, according to a study done by the CDC. (The Johnson & Johnson vaccine lowers infection risk by 66 percent.)

“About 15 percent of people in the county are missing their second dose, so we are encouraging people to get vaccinated at least with the first dose so we can move this forward and return to some level of normalcy,” said Dr. Pino.

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