Federal judge denies emergency injunction for facial covering order


Today Federal Judge Mark Walker denied a request for emergency injunctive relief of Alachua County’s facial covering order.

Attorney Raemi Eagle-Glenn brought suit on behalf of five plaintiffs who have various medical reasons for not being able to wear facial coverings. Their declarations describe interactions with store employees, medical offices, and bus drivers, in which they were refused various services because they were not wearing facial coverings.

Eagle-Glenn argued, “The data that is being relied upon by the County shows that this mask ordinance is not serving a public purpose.” She said the death count has been static for at least a month and the rate of infection in the county is less than 2%. She added that it benefits the public when emergency orders are uniformly applied through the state, and none of the surrounding counties require masks. In addition, there is no statewide mask ordinance and no federal mask mandate. 

Judge Walker referred to and quoted from a recent Supreme Court decision, in which the Court declined to intervene in challenges by churches to stay-at-home orders issued as a result of COVID-19. Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion in that case noted that COVID-19 “has killed thousands of people in California and more than 100,000 nationwide,” but there is “no known cure, no effective treatment, and no vaccine.” He added that people “may be infected but asymptomatic” and therefore can infect others unknowingly. Roberts also argued that courts should not second-guess the decisions of politicians “while local officials are actively shaping their response to changing facts on the ground.”

Walker also said that the examples given by the plaintiffs show that the ordinance is being improperly applied, not that the ordinance itself is problematic. Assistant County Attorney Robert Swain also pointed out that the County had rewritten its order, partially in response to the lawsuit, to add “incredibly expansive” exemptions. Swain said all of the plaintiffs are already exempt from the order and their examples are issues with individual businesses that are potentially violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Walker cited the government’s response to COVID-19 (he mentioned $5 trillion in spending, “shut down the economy, shut down schools”) as evidence that the coronavirus epidemic justifies emergency measures.

In denying the request for an emergency injunction, Walker said that he took the plaintiffs’ claims seriously, but that it was in the public’s interest to limit the spread of the coronavirus. He said that now that we are reopening, Alachua County has enacted an ordinance to limit spread in accordance with CDC recommendations, while recognizing private individuals’ rights, and it is “certainly” in the public interest to limit the spread by social distancing and wearing masks.

He said he didn’t minimize injury to the plaintiffs and that it’s not insignificant to have to disclose medical conditions, but that it is outweighed by the harm of potential spread in a second wave of the virus. He found that none of the four conditions for emergency injunctions were met.

Eagle-Glenn issued the following statement: “The 5 Plaintiffs bravely came forward and made their struggle public. They were the catalyst that pushed the County to amend their ordinance. Let’s hope that all citizens who are exempt from the order can now access our community equally. No one in our community should have to suffer to wear a mask. If you are exempt, bring a copy of the most recent order with you as you travel the community. You do not need to bring medical records or discuss your private history with a stranger.”

  • Predictable ruling….Judge Mark E. Walker, appointed by Obama and UF Alum… where UF medical school is invested in prolonging the lock-down while they design a trial for a failed HIV drug, Remdesivir that needs another chance under lucrative grant money and publishing prestige….See how the medical mafia works?

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