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Orange County Task Force Weighs Reopening Businesses Against Threat Of More Coronavirus Cases

Businesses deemed 'non essential' have been closed during the coronavirus pandemic, plunging tens of thousands of Floridians into unemployment. Photo: Matthew Peddie, WMFE

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An Orange County task force opened a discussion Wednesday on restarting the local economy with a strategy that would roll out in phases over several weeks. 

The measured approach is sparking concern for local businesses. 

The roll-out would depend on factors like numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths and availability of protective gear for health care and other workers who need it most.   

Chuck Whittall of Unicorp National Developments Inc., says the vague timeline leaves local businesses in limbo as they face existential decisions about whether they can survive.

“From the day cares to the hair salons to the restaurants, and I don’t care if it’s a small restaurant or a big restaurant. We’ve got some of the biggest restaurants that rent from us. They are all weeks, weeks from going broke. Not months. Weeks from completely being broke.” 

The task force plans to meet again next week after getting more concrete guidance from the DeSantis administration, which is holding similar meetings this week. 

“The worst thing that can happen is we open too quickly or we open without appropriate sanitation protocols in place, and we find ourselves in just a matter of months seeing a resurgence,” Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings says. “And that would be a major debacle at many levels.” 

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Amy Green

About Amy Green

Reporter and Producer

Amy Green covers the environment for 90.7 News. She is an award-winning journalist whose work has been heard on NPR and seen in PEOPLE, Newsweek, The New York Times and The Christian Science Monitor. She began her career at The Associated Press. Her book on the Everglades, under contract with Johns Hopkins ... Read Full Bio »