HomeLocal governmentCity of Gainesville tells the state all COVID-19 directives are “voided,” but masking requirements remain in place
City of Gainesville tells the state all COVID-19 directives are “voided,” but masking requirements remain in place
October 5, 2021
BY JENNIFER CABRERA
The City of Gainesville told the Florida Department of Health that it has voided all of the COVID-19 directives that were put in place in an August 12 memorandum from City Manager Lee Feldman, including requirements to wear masks in City facilities and all requirements related to vaccination for employees, but employees are still required to wear masks indoors, and masks are still required on RTS buses. There has been no announcement about whether citizens have to wear masks in City facilities, although the statement to us from the City was quite clear that “all directives have been voided.”
The August 12 Memorandum from City Manager Lee Feldman laid out the charter officers’ response to the City Commission’s 8-part motion on August 5. The memorandum required all employees to attest to their vaccination status and to be fully vaccinated by October 14 (this was later extended to October 31). Other provisions in Feldman’s memorandum included a requirement for the general public to be masked in order to interact with or receive service from GRU employees, and any employee traveling outside of Alachua County, involving an overnight stay on official City business, was required to be fully vaccinated.
The memorandum also required temperature screening when entering City facilities, masks for all employees and individuals “when in common areas of City facilities.,” and masks on RTS buses.
The travel ban was reversed for the Search & Rescue team during Hurricane Ida, but we received no response to our request at the time for information about whether that was a one-time decision or applied to all employees.
On September 22, a judge granted an emergency temporary injunction to City employees, blocking enforcement of the vaccine mandate, and on September 23, the Gainesville City Commission rescinded the vote they had taken on August 5.
On September 27, the City received notification from the State that they would be fined $5,000 per employee for requiring employees to attest to their vaccination status, and on September 28, Feldman sent a response saying that the city commission had rescinded “their August 5th action related to COVID-19. Based upon that rescission, the directives enumerated in my memoranda dated August 12, 2021 and updated August 14, 2021 have been voided.”
We asked for the August 14 update and received a response from City Communications Director Shelby Taylor that “the date referenced in Mr. Feldman’s letter to the state (Aug. 14) was incorrect” and that Feldman was referring to an email that was sent to employees on August 20, letting them know that the vaccine deadline had been extended to October 1 for the first dose and October 31 for the second dose. Taylor also wrote, “Employees are not required to attest to their vaccination status and are not subject to disciplinary measures.”
Taylor further wrote that “All directives have been voided.” We asked Taylor to confirm that all the directives in the memorandum have been voided, “including those governing mask requirements for City employees and in City buildings.” She again confirmed that “all directives have been voided” and did not point us to any policies that may have replaced those directives.
However, today’s GRU Daily told employees that beginning Monday, October 4, employees must wear masks indoors or in vehicles if they can’t remain at least 6 feet apart, but employees are not required to wear masks outdoors. This does not seem to be significantly different from the directives in the memorandum regarding masking of employees, which we were unequivocally told were voided.
The directives also included a requirement to wear masks on any RTS bus. We waited on hold with RTS customer service for over 25 minutes, but nobody answered. Taylor told us on October 6 that RTS will continue to rely on federal guidance that requires masks on buses.
Screenshots from the August 12 memorandum are below.
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