As people prepare to celebrate the Fourth of July against the backdrop of a surge in coronavirus infections, Volusia County Chair Ed Kelley announced a new offensive to combat the deadly disease — but the county will not make it law.
“If you will mask voluntarily for the next 30 days ... it will go away,” Kelley said a July 2 press conference.
Kelley underscored the danger of the virus by revealing that his 21-year-old granddaughter in Tennessee had tested positive.
He declined to support enacting mandatory use of masks in public settings, similar to the order now in Seminole County.
“You should be able to choose for yourself,” Kelley said.
He also noted Volusia County beaches will be open for the holiday weekend, when huge crowds are expected.
In the run up to the holiday weekend, Health Department Administrator Patricia Boswell noted there are now 2,372 positive cases of coronavirus in Volusia County, and 58 Volusians have died because of the disease.
“We have had more cases in the past two weeks than in all of the year,” Boswell said.
“This virus is spreading in our community,” she added. “The virus can develop for up to 14 days [after exposure or contact with an infected person].”
Halifax Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Margaret Crossman said her hospitals now have 16 patients being treated for COVID-19, and six of them are on ventilators.
The situation could be worse, Crossman noted, but it could also be better, if more people followed the admonitions to wash their hands, practice social distancing and wear masks.
“It can make a difference,” she said. “We’ve made great gains here in Volusia County.”
Crossman cited information regarding hand-washing, indicating about 20 percent of the coronavirus cases could be prevented by hand-washing.
Whether or not to require people to wear masks in public is an emerging topic in local governments.
Tonight, July 2, the DeLand City Commission adopted an emergency ordinance requiring mask-wearing inside businesses, with some exceptions. On July 1, a majority of the DeBary City Council voiced opposition to mandating masks, especially if surrounding cities and the county do impose similar orders.
“It might actually be counterproductive,” Mayor Karen Chasez said, regarding DeBaryans who do not wish to comply. “They would probably shop for groceries in Orange City or DeLand.”
“We should promote the wearing of masks, all the time, but not require it,” Council Member Stephen Bacon suggested. “I think it’s up to the individual.”
Meanwhile, Seminole County has responded to the coronavirus emergency with an all-encompassing executive order requiring the wearing of masks in public. The decree, signed June 29 by Emergency Management Administrator Alan Harris, “applies in incorporated and unincorporated Seminole County.”
The measure provides exemptions for children under 2 years of age, people exercising outdoors but maintaining social distancing, and people with health conditions who should not wear a mask.
DeLand’s newly adopted ordinance is similar.
The Seminole County executive order does not specify penalties for infractions, but it provides that violators “may be prosecuted consistent with Florida and local law.”