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Gainesville City Commission decides against increased COVID requirements on businesses

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

The Gainesville City Commission today withdrew its instruction to City Manager Lee Feldman to make the City of Gainesville’s emergency order similar to Hillsborough County’s. Hillsborough’s order requires businesses to “make reasonable efforts to require all persons within the location to wear a face covering” and only serve food or drinks to seated patrons. 

Feldman told the commission that the county’s COVID-19 data is in “quite a bit of a downward trend. That is good, though I recognize we have a far way to go.” He said he had two primary concerns with the order. The first was a messaging concern: different rules in the city and county would lead to confusion. His second concern was with enforcement, which he said would be like “whack-a-mole.” He also said there would be a “certain amount of economic impact on certain establishments.” Some bars can easily require customers to sit, but not all bars are set up for that. Feldman said, “That ultimately means they would pretty much cease from their operation.” 

Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos was in favor of the proposed order: “Since Sunday, 13 people have died from COVID, and that’s too many for me… I don’t feel like we are doing enough… I believe we should move forward with this emergency order.” He moved “that we continue the direction we sent to the Manager last time.” That motion, however, died for lack of a second.

His assertion that 13 people have died from COVID since Sunday is false. Eight deaths have been reported since Sunday, but Alachua County Administrator for the Florida Department of Health has repeatedly told the county commission that deaths usually happen weeks or sometimes months before the date they are reported. 

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Other commissioners said they would be in favor of the proposed order if cases start increasing again, but given that the positivity rate is currently low and the concerns with messaging and enforcement, they didn’t support moving forward on that right now.

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