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County commission votes unanimously to extend mask mandate and begin enforcement; Governor’s office says order is invalid

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

At today’s Special Meeting, the Alachua County Commission voted to extend the indoor mask mandate another 7 days and to begin enforcing it.

During his presentation, Paul Myers, Alachua County Administrator for the Florida Department of Health (FDOH), provided some context to recent media reports about how FDOH reports deaths to the CDC. He said that FDOH has reported COVID-19 death data to the CDC by county of residence since March 2020, but the CDC site shows deaths by where the person died. “Now that’s problematic for Alachua County because when I went to the CDC website today, they’re reporting 864 deaths in Alachua County. That is about two and a half times the number I have in our databases here… When you have a regional hospital system, such as UF Health and North Florida Regional… if they pass away in Alachua County, the CDC is counting those deaths in Alachua County.”

Myers said he knew how many people have died with COVID-19 in Alachua County, but “I hesitate to give you an exact number, just because the number tends to fluctuate on a weekly basis… the number is north of 340, but it’s less than 350.”

Commission Chair Ken Cornell asked why the number of deaths is not reported weekly to the public, and Myers responded, “We know a lot more about this disease now than we did when it first started, and so I think that there is a need to know and a want to know, so that’s the only way that I can really describe it to you. We know right now that we’re in the post-vaccine era. We know what is very effective at preventing disease. We know how to treat this disease. And so the department has shifted from a need-to-know to a want-to-know; that’s the best way I can characterize it without getting into the statutes and the interpretation of what is not considered to be a public record.”

Myers said cases and positivity rate are trending down and that the health department is “a bit behind” in entering negative tests, so positivity rate will drop even lower when those tests are entered. “The positive tests are far outnumbered by the negative tests, so that 11.7% number in actually is a bit lower.” 

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Adult hospitalizations peaked in mid-August at 453 and are down to about 300. Pediatric hospitalizations have dropped from 16 to 5. 

In response to a question from Commissioner Mary Alford, Myers said the monoclonal antibody administration site in High Springs is averaging over 150 patients a day. 

Cornell told Acting Deputy County Manager Carl Smart that he’d heard some anecdotal reports about people not wearing masks in various places. Smart said the code enforcement staff has been getting the signs out to businesses and letting them know that the signs are now required and that they need to encourage their employees and customers to wear masks indoors. Smart said, “We are at the point where enforcement is needed.” He said that code enforcement officers are now going back to businesses to verify that the signs were posted. Alachua County is working with the City of Gainesville to coordinate enforcement. 

“I feel like we don’t have a cohesive approach to this, to the point where we’re going to be trying to stick our fingers in the holes in the dike, and the thing is going to flow over the top of us.” – Commissioner Marihelen Wheeler

Commissioner Marihelen Wheeler said she was concerned that in pictures from the UF football game on Saturday, “not one person was wearing a mask… I feel like we don’t have a cohesive approach to this, to the point where we’re going to be trying to stick our fingers in the holes in the dike, and the thing is going to flow over the top of us… With the governor working against us, I don’t know how we can do this well… I think it’s important that the businesses enforce this… How can we actually enforce collecting a fine when the governor is saying, ‘No, no, no. You don’t get to do that’? So I feel like we’ve kind of put ourselves in a corner here.”

Commissioner Anna Prizzia asked how much opportunity there is to work with the University of Florida. County Attorney Sylvia Torres said UF is part of the State University System and Santa Fe College is part of the State College System, and they’re governed by the Board of Governors. She said she had been reading through the statutes, and “there’s nothing in the statutes that says our emergency orders cannot impact the university or the state college system. There are a couple exemptions—for instance, zoning, taxation—so our read of it is that if they’re specifically exempted, there’s an argument that other things are not… The question at this point is if you want to go there.” She requested time to have a conversation with the university.

Prizzia said she would like to see masks required at the stadium at the Alabama game. “I would at least like to hear what’s possible.”

Cornell said he was fine with writing a citation if a business hasn’t put up a sign when code enforcement goes back for a second visit. He said code enforcement should then return every day and write another citation (the fines increase with each citation) until they comply. “Most folks, if you ask them to put on a mask, they put one on.” He said he wasn’t interested in chasing people to their car, but code enforcement should catch them on the way into a business.

“I thought we were partners in all of this. I thought the school board, the City, the university, Santa Fe, I thought we were all partners in this, and if we’re not all partners and they’re not gonna follow our guidelines, what’s the purpose?” – Commissioner Chuck Chestnut

Commissioner Chuck Chestnut said, “I thought we were partners in all of this. I thought the school board, the City, the university, Santa Fe, I thought we were all partners in this, and if we’re not all partners and they’re not gonna follow our guidelines, what’s the purpose?… If we give out an order and it’s a local order, we do expect our partners to follow those orders… We’re trying to do the right thing, and we’re just asking our partners to do the right thing, too, even though it’s not popular. You do the right thing, and it’s about protecting people and making sure people don’t die from this virus… I have realized that we’re in a society now about self and not about others. And I’m about others. I’m not about self. Being about others, I want to protect others and protect their rights, too. They have rights just like those who don’t want to wear masks, don’t want to get vaccinated… I’m sorry that UF is following the Board of Governors, but I thought we were partners locally to try to protect our citizens and students.”

Chestnut said his impression had been that they would check for masks and vaccines at the game, but checking vaccination status would actually be illegal under state law.

Prizzia said she was very concerned about the weekend after next, with both the Alabama game and Gatorback in the same weekend. Prizzia made a motion to renew the emergency order and emergency action for 7 days and move to the enforcement phase with regards to businesses that aren’t putting up signs or allowing their employees to wear a mask; she added a request to send a Chair letter to the university and Santa Fe College, asking them to put a mask order in place on their campuses. Wheeler seconded the motion. This will be the fourth week of the six-week limit that is permitted by law on local orders. The last possible day of the mandate would be September 30.

The vote to approve the motion was 5-0, with Alford voting remotely.

Governor’s staff members say the order is invalid

Governor DeSantis’ Press Secretary Christina Pushaw has repeatedly asserted that Alachua County’s orders are not valid. She issued the following statement, “Under Florida Statutes Section 252 and Governor DeSantis’ Executive Order 21-101, Alachua County does not have the legal authority to declare such local emergency and it is invalid as a matter of law. On May 3, 2021 Governor DeSantis signed into law SB 2006, which provides that any emergency order issued by a political subdivision may be invalidated by the Governor, at any time, if the Governor determines that such order unnecessarily restricts individual rights or liberties pursuant to section 252.38, Florida Statutes (2021). Accordingly, Governor DeSantis issued EO 21-101 which invalidated any emergency order issued by a political subdivision due to the COVID-19 emergency. And even in the absence of such order, Alachua County is not able to issue on its own a local state of emergency for a pandemic.” She added on Twitter: “Businesses that do not enforce #Alachua mask mandates will not be penalized either. The local order IS NOT VALID under the law.”

Kyle Lamb, who works in the governor’s communications office, added on Twitter: “SB 2006 says that once an emergency order expires (or is invalidated), a political subdivision ‘may not issue a substantially similar order.’ Effective July 1, by way of E.O. 21-101, the Governor invalidated all remaining COVID-19 orders. Alachua is not in compliance.”

County employee vaccination update

County Human Resources Director Heather Akpan gave an update on employee vaccinations. Akpan said 25% of employees are unvaccinated and about 9% are partially vaccinated. Weekly testing is required for unvaccinated employees, about 437 per week. 72 tests were scheduled for today, but only 47 people tested today, possibly because the list went out late on Friday. Akpan said there are 3 people who have refused to be tested, “so we are going to be dealing with that.” She said that they “had to get corrective actions” to 15 people who refused to attest to their vaccination status and that they are now pretty close to 100% who have attested to their status. County Manager Michele Lieberman said that refusing testing is considered insubordination.

  • These dictatorial cretins can taker their illegal “orders” and shove them up their butts. All this mask nonsense and vaccine pumping is making people more and more sick. There are treatments that work which cost pennies and can be done at home, but the political “whores” on the commission and their sycophants are owned and bribed by Big Pharma, so they remain silent about all the treatments that work to keep people well and out of the hospital. The whole gang of these SOB’s are going to face consequences when enough people catch on to their crimes against humanity. Here is a real good summary of what is really going on. https://newswithviews.com/the-coming-genocide-mass-extermination-of-humanity-part-1/

  • My favorite part of all this is that UF has told them to pound sand. They actually follow the real law and realize where there funding comes from.

    Meanwhile the idiots in local gov whine about their rules being ignored. “Our mandates are made invalid by the govenor! How will this ever work?!?!?!”

    I know…you should double down and start writing (meaningless) citations. 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

    • Hi Angela…what are you trying to say by posting that link? I have authority and control over my body…What
      Are you going to do about that? I guess I’m one of
      The “insubordinates”. I am healthy and never get sick.
      I have constitutional rights. If you want to wear a mask
      And take the “clot shot, knock yourself out. I need to
      Breath and we all know the mask does nothing. The
      Mask is a comfort thing like a baby sucking his thumb
      Or needing his dolly or blankey. You’re just a control
      Freak wanting to control others..And Chuck Chesnut,
      In this world, you’re ultimately responsible for your own safety. So,
      Don’t worry about me, worry about yourself. —All of you
      Who want the shot & mask, go ahead, it’s your choice.
      If it’s bad for me and you try to force something on me
      That I don’t need or want, it’s my choice. You don’t like
      The governor’s orders? You are insubordinate to his
      Orders like how I’m insubordinate to your tyrannical orders. I will not comply…how do you like them apples?
      What are you going to do about it? Your fear & hysteria
      Don’t work on me. Wearing the mask just lets me know
      That you are a good commie and showing your submission to control. And guess what’s going to happen when code enforcement gives me a visit?
      I’m gonna tell them their orders are invalid and to go
      F themselves. It will be quite a show! More people need to do the same. God bless America and Governor Desantis.

      • You do realize thOse laws have been there for years? So I must ask if it were not for COVID and feeling as though your rights are being infringed upon (of which they are not, it is controlling a communicable disease) unless you were given HIV by someone who knew they were infected then you would be screaming about how they violated the laws. Funny thing yes it is your body but when you are potentially infecting others then your rights fall under this category. We have wide spread infection and just because it causes a tiny bit of discomfort it’s your rights? Oh and the mask? Well if they were worn right and they were proper not just two pieces of material sewn together, as I see here and there and I see those wearing the mask under their noses the. Of course it will not work. I mean god forbid you need surgery, you know because you say they don’t work. But the funny thing is my mask protects you and yes I wear an N95 mask, much more uncomfortable than the surgical mask of which I will wear also. I had been before the pandemic because of a premature child. So honestly I won’t change your mind and your points to me are by far invalid because if the masks didn’t work then for years during surgical procedures people should have been dropping like flies. As for the vaccine you assume I got it when I can not get it due to certain ingredients, sodium phosphate and sodium acetate. Which is common in many foods and drinks, yep that’s right I have to watch the ingredients in my foods and hell I only drink water.

        • It’s about control, not about a flu. Was it Schwab from the IMF that said “Covid is the perfect cover to implement the great reset” or something like that? I got a Covid19 joke for you Angela… but 99.8% of the people don’t get it. —Obviously you are a sickly person
          Because fear has permeated your brain and your
          Immune system is weak. If you get the shot and wear the mask , go ahead. I don’t need it because
          My immune system is amazing. Why should I get
          A shot that I may die from because I may have an
          Adverse reaction to it. Quarantine the sick, let the
          Healthy achieve natural herd immunity. Your way
          Has destroyed the dollar, destroyed the economy,
          Taken away freedom & liberty, and you will have to get a booster shot every 6 mos for the rest of your life. Catch the flu, maybe you’ll be asymptomatic, then you have all the antibodies.
          I guess VAERS data means nothing to you to.
          You live your life with a mask in your closet afraid to go outside. I live life with the armor of god protecting me…you just want everyone to be miserable on the planet like how you are. Some people are positive thinkers, some people are negative thinkers…stop with the doom & gloom.
          Ask Jesus & god for forgiveness.

          • You are using God as your cover, do you not realize that you are participating in exactly what the enemy has planned? You know not who I am nor did you read what I said. Yes you can make your own choices, but mixing politics, and God isn’t Godly period. The Government means to separate the true Government is on Jesus’ shoulders. You chose to bring God into this but I guess you too haven’t heard the story of the lady who had trust in God to save her from the flood when multiple times she was given a way out but chose to say God will save me.. she drowned and faced him and asked why he didn’t save her as he promised. He answered by saying I sent a bus, boat and helicopter you chose to stay. Just remember God gives us all a way to deal with things be it COVID or something else. His way of dealing with things for you may be different, and yet you have a nasty attitude with me. You may have had COVID, at some point, so has my aunt who is a healthcare worker and is fully vaccinated with a weak immune system she managed to stay out of the hospital, my ex’s father well he was completely healthy but COVID took him last week. I do what my Father directs. And I also listen to the information he places infront of me not the false information. So please quit casting the stones, as you know little about the amount of Faith I have. You choose the faith over fear but true faith is listening to what God the Father tells each as an individual. Did I choose to let you know about the masks? Yes I did. Why? Because there are reason as to why some do not work… and other reasons as well like mishandling of clothes, and not washing hands. And that may be the enemy or all part of Gods plan. So to say it’s fear for me and mine is wrong. Psalm 91 has kept my family safe. God Bless!

        • Angela…Maybe you can provide an answer as to why the numbers of COVID positive children are supposedly going up? Let’s not forget the masks mandates have been in place since the beginning of the school year.

          Hmmm…some will always believe.

          • Well let me see here since the beginning we have been told to socially distance as well kids do not listen well. Oh and by the way the pediatric cases if you have actually been following have dropped in our county a lot. My daughter lives in hernando county, and well I have seen her remove her mask in common areas at school. And many kids do, not just outside.

          • Angela…you must be doing domething wrong. My kids listen very well, that’s how they were raised.

            Maybe you should have believed someone else…

          • Well I guess you are perfect then? I mean do you know every move they make? At least my daughter (who is a senior) feels she can call me between classes and talk to me via video and knows I see the mask off, she makes her own decisions, but knows as well that I will say something. I admit I don’t know what my kids do every second of the day especially if they are not in my sight. But I do know that they do do things they wouldn’t normally do while with me, or around those that know me and will say something. But then according to you I’m doing something wrong when I can allow my kids to be themselves and I am aware that they will do things behind my back… I remember when I was young and what it’s like. My mother didn’t keep communication lines open and I do. So tell me what is it I’m doing wrong other than knowing full well my kids are not perfect and are an individual that will make good and bad choices in life? You on the other hand live in a fantasy world if you think your children don’t do things when you are not looking.

          • Angela…Actually far from it. I can say that and it doesn’t bother me.

            My children can call if they choose to as well. What my children will not do is video their classmates not wearing masks. I guess if your daughter needs a job after graduation, she will at least have experience in being a CI. I don’t have to know what they’re doing 24 hours a day because I trust them to conduct themselves in accordance with the morals and values they were raised with.

            However I do appreciate your identifying the issue. You said your child, a senior, is able to make her decisions – yet you as the parent of that child want government to take that decision making process away from you. That’s been the argument. Let parents make the decision.

            You have a decision you can make, either believe – or don’t…

          • One did I say she videoed her class mates? No as a matter of fact I said she video chats me and at times isn’t wearing a mask in which she knows I will say something.

            As for the mask thing, if you would read the federal laws you would see that this indeed can be covered under the laws regarding communicable diseases. And those laws have been around longer than COVID. Parts were in place after the Spanish flu. But then what do I know? I haven’t done the research. The government doesn’t want to pull all of what they could because people are already complaining about a simple thing that could help but yet think they are going to die if they have to wear it. Think about how long masking was going on during the Spanish flu since it took a few years. And Pennsylvania messed up by demaskng and having a party (parade) which caused the Spanish flu to continue longer than it should have.

            I’m not trying to tell anyone what to do, because all are their own person. Just like my daughter knows it’s her choice but I will say something to her as a reminder but that’s it. She knows people she stays with there have weak immune systems. I will also let you know where problems are as well. Don’t tell me you know your kids are socially distancing unless you are with them at school.

          • Angela…my apologies. I misinterpreted your comment regarding your child not wearing a mask and your seeing other students possibly not wearing masks.

            Once again you made a valid although questionable comment regarding federal law and mask mandates. Currently there is no federal law in place that implements such orders, it is our local leadership and their need for authority over our lives that want masks implemented throughout the county.

            Personally, I want my children to enjoy their childhood. I don’t expect them and I’ve never told them to socially distance themselves. Children, like animals, need social interaction to exist cohesively with others. Their inability to have that has greater potential and a higher probability of adverse effects in later years. Reference – dogs locked in cages and isolated are far more likely to attack people as well as other animals.

          • I can see your point, however children are not caged when socially distancing at 6 ft. They can still be social. And certainly outside is better than inside to socialize. This would not pose harm on children.
            Although my two youngest are at home with me, the 9 year old is home schooled due to my husband being a truck driver and it gives us flexibility to go places and do things when he is home. The youngest is unable to wear a mask and was 11 weeks premature due to severe pre-eclampsia. He has speech issues so far that we know of and a few other issues we are working on with therapists. They do socialize though not with the kids here due to the level of disrespect I see these kids in this area have. Many will cuss an adult out and spit at them. I just can not allow that to influence my kids. Church friends, and people we know well are where they socialize.

  • Of course the health department would be behind in entering the negative covid results. Why would they actually provide accurate data for the public to see. Alachua county is the most ridiculous county!

  • These commissioners are idiots. They are so power hungry and it just kills them that they can’t control the colleges. This is what happens when unqualified people get elected to public office.

  • We should have done the opposite of what the expert clowns and media told us to. COVID would be history by now.

    • “All’s well that ends well” comes to mind…freedom & liberty will prevail because it’s our unalienable right.

      —Desantis should declare that: any citation issued unto
      A person or business shall be null and void
      For any citation issued in conflict with his order, and that that government entity shall
      Be charged $5000 for each citation issued in violation of his executive order,
      that elected officials shall be removed from office immediately and charged criminally for insubordination of his order, and that those who are relieved of their duties shall have to pay their
      Own legal expenses in respect to that order.

  • Wheeler finally pulled her thumb out of her @rse? Now if she would pull her head out of the sand. She noticed “not one person was wearing a mask.” Okay, maybe they’re tired of the BS like the rest of us. Why should we listen to you if you feel you don’t have to listen to the governor?

    Wait a second, the people who voted these $oci@li$ts into office aren’t following THEIR masters’ Draconian mandates? Another example how they will turn on themselves if given a chance.

    Prizzia wants everyone to wear a mask all the time. Maybe she has a problem looking in the mirror at her own hypocrisy. If she wants to wear a mask, she should wear one. Maybe she should go to the school that just recently had a child’s mask taped to their face.

    Chestnut decided to wake up from his dream and thought he remembered everyone was a partner with the county and city commissions. Earth to Chestnut! Earth to Chestnut! NO! We’re not your partner.

    Cornell wants to write everyone a citation. I would be willing to bet he WON’T be wearing a mask at the Alabama game.

    The county attorney is once again going to look for a way to circumvent the governor’s orders and state law. Don’t they have more important things to do?

    Time to stop believing…

  • How is the county or the city going to enforce this against individuals?

    • They can’t. It’s unconstitutional. Like is said…if you
      Want to wear one, go ahead, knock yourself out.
      I make my own medical decisions….you know, that
      Ol’ Chesnut….Jesus wouldn’t wear a mask or take the
      Clot shot either.

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