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County commission unanimously approves final renewal of mask mandate

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

“The mayor was discussing, you know, looking at the data and a potential order as well. Ours will expire on September 30th. The school board’s masking will expire in the middle of October unless they renew it. The superintendent indicated to me that she thought her board would want to keep the masking in the schools at least until the vaccine was available for the younger kids, which we are hoping will be as early as October.” – Chair Ken Cornell

In a Special Meeting this afternoon, the Alachua County Commission voted unanimously to extend the universal indoor mask mandate for a final time, to the maximum of 42 days, ending on September 30.

Paul Myers, Alachua County Administrator for the Florida Department of Health, gave a presentation showing that cases and hospitalizations are continuing to fall in Alachua County. The positivity rate of COVID-19 tests dropped from 11.8% last week to 8.5% this week. The number of cases in the county for the previous week was 985, the first time since mid-July that the number has been below 1,000. He also told commissioners that 68% of the eligible population has been vaccinated and that the monoclonal antibodies site in High Springs is treating about 80 patients per day, down from about 150 at the peak. 

In response to a question from Commissioner Marihelen Wheeler, Myers said that only about 6-7 cases were identified that were related to the UF football game against FAU on September 4. Myers said, “We just did not see the surge in cases that some may have expected, given that the FAU game was about 86,000 people, and this past Saturday, with Alabama in town, it was 90,000 plus. We’ll be watching that closely to see if we do have a surge in cases. But it just did not manifest itself after the FAU game.”

When Chair Ken Cornell asked the commissioners whether they wanted to extend the mask mandate, Commissioner Mary Alford said, “My thoughts are, you don’t change your strategy if you have a winning game. And we are doing really well, and I would like to keep doing really well… I think one more week is something that we can do to continue to have a winning strategy.”

Commissioner Chuck Chestnut said he was in favor of extending the mandate through September 30: “We see that the numbers are going down… from 11-something to 8-something, so… I think that’s a good sign. So I just say stay the course.”

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Commissioner Anna Prizzia added, “I guess I’ll just say I agree. Don’t change the strategy in the middle of the game when we are winning this. I think one of the things that’s important and is powerful for me is that we didn’t see a spike in our own community in spite of having 86,000 people converge on a game. That’s a testament to the local businesses. I know this hasn’t been easy. but the fact that they are putting the signs up and enforcing masks in their businesses has helped our local community and the people who are serving in those service industries and on the front lines, keeping them safe and keeping their communities safe while still trying to be able to enjoy their good time. So with another big football game, Tennessee, upon us, I think it’s critical that we stay the course through the 30th.”

Cornell said he was “happy to support the last week, the sixth week. And at that point, we will have to decide… do we continue the state of emergency or do we look at–what’s the data. You know, for me, once we get back below that 5% range, that would be kind of the trigger for me on, okay, Delta is now gone and we can lift the state of emergency. I think one more week on the emergency order makes a lot of sense. I think our community thinks it makes a lot of sense. And I know the businesses I have talked to have been appreciative of the order and most of the citizens, you know.

“It’s a short-term thing. Put my mask on, go get my groceries. Take it off when I get out of the grocery store… And you never know if you save a life or save lives, but the data shows what we have been doing here and what our community has been doing during this Delta spike has been as good as we could have expected. So I think I’m happy with that.”

Wheeler moved to extend the state of emergency for one more week and extend the emergency order for its final week. 

After public comment, Cornell said that the school board’s 8-week mask mandate goes through mid-October. “I also know that the City was discussing an ordinance and the mayor was discussing, you know, looking at the data and a potential order as well. Ours will expire on September 30th. The school board’s masking will expire in the middle of October unless they renew it. The superintendent indicated to me that she thought her board would want to keep the masking in the schools at least until the vaccine was available for the younger kids, which we are hoping will be as early as October. But again, that will be their decision.”

The motion to extend the state of emergency and the emergency order passed unanimously.

  • so assuming the county doesn’t blatantly break the law as the school board has, how soon can they enact another emergency order? 42 days per year or per emergency? Are they going to just wait a day and then declare a new emergency?

  • Once again the gutless wonders on the commission demonstrate their stupidity. I’ve got chunks of guys like Ken Cornhole in my stool.

  • Delta is waning like other variants did before. They’ll take credit for their superstitious masks but science says DeSantis was right all along. Masks make healthy kids sick, hence the increased pediatric cases as predicted.

    • By no means am I fan of the county commission – but where are you getting your data from JeffK?

  • Absolute idiots thinking worthless masks are the reason for the decline. They don’t have a lick of sense.

  • Since Gville is part of the county and has been covered by the county order I don’t see how they can do it from a legal stand point. Although we are talking about the Gville commission where laws do not apply to them.

  • Ok, I’m unclear about this because I wasn’t there, didn’t see the game, and I want to get this right…How many people at the
    Florida/Alabama game didn’t have masks on, 86,000??
    How is this staying the course??

  • 🎬Edgar Allan Poe wants you to know about these doomed CorporateCovidHoes🎬

  • I suspect gville will enact it despite the fact that they were covered by the county mandate…and will probably get away with it too.

  • It’s all about pea-brained government bureaucrats wanting control over people’s lives. They’ve never been able to control their own behaviors, families or anything else an adult should have control over so they choose to exercise their personal inadequacies on others.

    They’re incapable of satisfying their own quest for authority at home so they utilize government agencies to enforce it on us. From the way they continue to enact Draconian rules, I find it difficult to believe they can provide any measure of satisfaction to their significant others.

    They want to mask up? They should put a ziploc bag over their heads and go play on the interstate.

  • What part of Illegal/Invalid do these despotic Neanderthals not understand? They can’t legally do any of this crap, nor can the city. DeSantis should have them all prosecuted, yesterday.

  • They can “want” in one hand, and defecate in the other, and see which one fills up first.

  • Let them play their games. Then simply ignore them. Then vote them out on their rear ends at the earliest opportunity.

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