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In what has become a somewhat routine exercise, the Orange City Council has renewed its emergency law requiring people to wear masks when entering public buildings, stores, restaurants and even houses of worship.

First enacted July 6, 2020, to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the city’s mask mandate remains in effect for at least another 60 days. Orange City leaders, however, hope that this may be the last time they will have to act on the face-covering ordinance.

“I would support one more 60-day extension,” Council Member Bill Crippen said via remote connection March 23. “The CDC [Centers for Disease Control] says we should wear masks in public, because even if you have had both your shots, you could avoid transmission of the virus.”

More and more people are being vaccinated against coronavirus, and the numbers of newly reported cases are on the decline, but Mayor Gary Blair warned the pandemic is not over.

“I lost a friend last week that died from COVID,” he told the City Council. “There’s light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s not tomorrow or next week.”

Orange City’s continuing mask requirement came under criticism from Council Member Bill O’Connor.

“People have made their minds up,” he said. “I’ve always supported the masks, but I think we ought to have a proclamation [as opposed to an ordinance]. … People have the right to make their choices.”

O’Connor has steadfastly worn a mask while attending City Council meetings, even if he has opposed the city’s law requiring masks to be worn inside public buildings.

The Orange City Council voted 5-2 in favor of letting the emergency ordinance stay for another 60 days. O’Connor and Vice Mayor Kelli Marks dissented.

When the Orange City Council first adopted the ordinance last summer, the measure authorized police to issue citations with fines of $25 for the first violation, escalating to $100 for the third or subsequent violation. Orange City Police say they issued no tickets to anyone for mask-law violations.

Under Orange City’s charter, the City Council may enact emergency ordinances for no longer than 60 days at a time. An executive order by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis prohibited local governments from collecting fines from violators of the mask law.

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