“At the peak of danger:” Orange County mayor signs business fines for COVID-19 violation

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Saying it’s time to hold “bad actors” accountable, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings signed an emergency enforcement order on Friday that would allow local businesses to be fined for repeatedly ignoring COVID-19’s security measures.

The draft implementing regulation was released to the media on Thursday night, but Demings made it official on Friday. At a press conference that afternoon, he explained why he chose punitive measures against business owners.

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“Our goal is simple: to target some bad actors. I call them bad actors because they are the ones who act as if they care about the personal safety of others, when in fact they only care about their essence. They make a profit over people. Businesses that are good players and keep that command don’t have to worry about penalties, ”Demings said.

In recent weeks, he has said he has the power to financially penalize business owners who repeatedly violate the guidelines set by the Center for Disease Prevention and Control, but has hesitated so far.

When asked, the mayor said there was no real straw that would have influenced his decision, and he said it was more about keeping the situation of COVID-19 under local control. He cited the fact that coronavir virus compliance strike groups had to visit a number of businesses that did not seem willing to take security measures, that we were not yet aware of the effects of Thanksgiving, and that we were approaching colder. months as well as the busy travel season.

“(My advisors) have all told me we are at the top of the danger. I don’t want to end up in a situation where we exceed hospital capacity when we could have taken action early to prevent it. So I think the timing is everything, ”Demings said, adding that he wants to prevent another bout of hospitalizations and new infections.

The order requires all businesses in Orange County, including cities and unincorporated areas, to require a mask, set up social distance markers, and have a plexiglass or handrail.

According to the enforcement order, the fine imposed by law enforcement or the code executor will not exceed $ 500. If the fine is imposed by a special judge, that number falls to $ 1,000 per day for a first offense and $ 5,000 per day for subsequent offenses.

For the most serious violations, “deemed irreparable or irreversible,” the amount could swell to $ 15,000 per violation.

Demings said code law enforcement officials and law enforcement officials are trying to be consistent in how they decide which companies to penalize.

“In general, we visit a company to achieve compliance. We want to be proactive to help our businesses stay open. So we give them instructions on what they can do to comply with the enforcement order and the CDC guidelines. We go back and re-examine the businesses we originally failed to comply with. We need to look at all the circumstances at the time. If the staff believes that the business has tried to comply, then we are not to really punish at this point, but we want to achieve compliance, voluntary compliance. Probably if this employee has to go back a third time and still doesn’t comply with the rules, he or she will probably consider a penalty that exceeds or exceeds $ 500 for the initial fine, ”the mayor said.

He reiterated that businesses that follow the rules and take precautions don’t have to worry. His office plans to make public which facilities will be fined.

Demings also said he was not concerned that his enforcement order might conflict with the governor’s executive order, which prohibits local governments from restricting restaurant capacity or fining individuals for violating mask orders or similar rules. He said he had no contact with Governor Ron DeSantis about the new measure.

“I really don’t feel like I have to go to the governor to apply for permission to be mayor of Orange County,” Demings said.

The order, which will take effect on Sunday at 12:01, can be read in full below.

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