Photo via Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings/Facebook
Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings announced on Friday that officials are forming "strike teams" that will randomly inspect businesses to see which establishments are not following COVID-19 safety rules.
"We will be putting together some strike teams that will be going out into the community to ensure that we get better compliance from the businesses with the executive orders and the other CDC directives that have been put in place," said Demings on Friday. "So to all of those businesses that are regulated, et cetera, we will be visiting those where we get complaints and we'll be visiting businesses in general to ensure that we have compliance here within our community."
Demings said the county will be working with the Florida Department of Health to set up the teams, proposed last week in response to record-high spikes in coronavirus infection rates.
"We are all concerned about the new cases we have seen emerging in our community," Demings said on Friday. "We are now at 102 deaths in Orange County. That means that 102 different families have been directly impacted by the worst."
Demings said the county's Economic Recovery Task Force had "insufficient information" last week to recommend fines or closures yet, but that the county's Business Compliance & Consumer Confidence Working Group will be meeting Monday to determine enforcement methods.
Demings said he plans for the task forces to visit theme parks, gyms and retail outlets, among others, saying, "In general, we want compliance."
"When we have bad actors, we want to kind of focus on the bad actors and not all of those who are complying," said Demings. "So my response is to send out our strike teams and to look and do an assessment and report back."
Demings said businesses would not be warned of task force visits ahead of time, that they will "show up just like anybody else shows up from the public and observe and then take appropriate regulatory measures."
"They're not going to be wearing combat gear or any of that," said Demings. "They will be wearing facial coverings that won't be, you know, army mask or anything, but they'll be staff that will be clearly identified as either Orange County officials or Department of Health officials. They'll have appropriate credentials and they're going to go in and and look and inspect."
Demings also said immediate shutdowns of businesses would be rare, and are not the purpose of the visits, adding, "If it's so egregious what they're doing, that's a possibility, but that should be very rare."
"I suspect that much of what initially may occur would be warnings," said Demings. "We're going to come in, we see you in violation, we're going to give you a warning, we're going to document that we warned you before we take further punitive action."
Demings is expected to include an update on the strike force during the next county press conference, scheduled for 4 p.m. Monday. Viewers can watch it live here.
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