Orlando to let downtown Halloween revelers take beer outside as officials urge caution over virus

Stephen Hudak and Ryan Gillespie, Orlando Sentinel
·2 min read

Orange County officials are hoping Halloween festivities won’t lead to a local resurgence of COVID-19, as nationwide, record new infections have been announced in recent days.

Decisions on Trick-or-Treating will be left up to parents, and officials are encouraging neighborhoods to avoid large gatherings, and for parents to make sure children are wearing masks, washing hands and keeping distance from others if they go out.

In Orlando, where thousands of revelers historically flood downtown bars, Mayor Buddy Dyer said the city will waive open-container rules in some areas in hopes of allowing crowds more space to spread out. Bar patrons will be able to step outside, where the risk of virus transmission is thought to be lower, with drinks in hand on parts of Orange Avenue and other corridors, though the city won’t allow alcohol sales outside.

“This is a way we as a city are hoping to create more space when we know there is going to be potential for gatherings at these establishments,” said Cassandra Lafser, a spokeswoman for Dyer.

His office is also directing downtown ambassadors to visit bar owners this week to reiterate CDC guidelines and hand out face masks on Halloween night.

There are no longer state restrictions on bar capacity, but establishments are encouraged to promote social distancing and face coverings are required throughout Orange County when in public spaces.

In neighborhoods, Dr. Raul Pino said the state hasn’t issued specific guidance on how Halloween should be handled by families, but he suggested candy be set out in a way to limit contact among groups.

As cases are surging nationwide, Florida hasn’t seen sustained increases in recent weeks, even as weekly positivity rates increased slightly in each of Orange, Seminole, Lake and Osceola counties last week.

Last week, 5.66% of test results in Orange County were positive, compared to 5.76% in Osceola, 5.13% in Seminole and 5.48% in Lake.

Of the results reported Monday morning, 5.69% were positive in Orange, 7.22% in Osceola, 4.64% in Seminole and 3.95% in Lake.

Also, more than 1,200 hospital beds are available in Orange County.

Total numbers of positive cases, however, have increased to a level that has stretched state health officials' ability to investigate them and identify people who were potentially exposed on a timely basis. In Orange, 208 positives were reported by the state Monday morning.

“They’re right in the line where we might not be able to complete those cases daily…with the workforce we have," Pino said.

shudak@orlandosentinel.com, rygillespie@orlandosentinel.com

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