Occupancy at governor’s Phase 2, masks still mandated, playgrounds opening soon


At today’s Alachua County Commission meeting, the commissioners discussed a recommendation from staff that the County mostly follow the governor’s guidelines for which activities can be restarted and for occupancy in businesses that are already open.

Staff recommended that movie theaters, concert halls, auditoriums, playhouses, and water parks submit plans to the County before reopening, but Commissioner Ken Cornell argued that businesses have been studying guidelines for several months and can reopen safely without government permission. He said businesses don’t want to be responsible for outbreaks (and any resulting publicity for that) and that customers and staff would complain if the business operates unsafely.

Regarding bars, Commissioner Robert Hutchinson said the County should follow the lead of the City of Gainesville. He said they should allow street parties and move drinking outdoors and that parks should become “outdoor drinking and music venues.”

There was no discussion about the new occupancy standards, which would be 50% in restaurants and bars and 100% in retail.

The commissioners discussed making facial coverings “recommended” instead of “mandatory” outside of Gainesville’s urban cluster, while giving smaller municipalities the ability to pass their own facial covering ordinances if they wanted.

Cornell said, “The importance of UF, the City, and the County being on the same page can’t be overstated” until students come back, but he agreed that the urban cluster could be a good compromise. He added, “I want to stay consistent with UF on the facial covering thing.”

Cornell moved that the County follow the governor’s Phase 2 guidelines with two things added: 1) Require businesses to follow CDC and OSHA guidelines; 2) Continue face coverings “for a period of time.”

They continued to discuss whether to make facial coverings mandatory everywhere or in the urban cluster. Hutchinson said that most people have no idea where the urban cluster line is. Commissioner Mike Byerly said the urban cluster idea “feels more like an arbitrary political compromise” than keeping people safe. Regarding businesses outside Gainesville’s urban cluster, Hutchinson said, “The employees out there would be freaking out.”

Cornell said that, in speaking with the leadership of the outlying municipalities, “I haven’t met anyone who is opposed to what we’ve done.” He listed several outlying cities, but Newberry wasn’t on the list. Newberry has declared that they’re following the governor’s orders instead of the County’s orders.

Byerly said that if UF requires masks, it would be “chaos” for the City to not require them.

The vote for the motion as stated (governor’s occupancy restrictions, mandatory masks) was unanimous.

The commissioners then discussed opening playgrounds because the staff recommendation was to keep them closed. County Manager Michele Lieberman said she had met with the municipalities’ management that morning, and they all had a potential date of June 22 for opening playgrounds.

But Cornell and Byerly wanted to open playgrounds as soon as possible, arguing that outdoor play surfaces are not dangerous to children. Lieberman said there was a staffing issue with the extra work of keeping restrooms and surfaces at new “enhanced” cleanliness standards.

Byerly also asked why Poe Springs is open on weekends but not weekdays. Lieberman said that since they have to monitor the parking lot to make sure the park stays at 50% occupancy, plus the cleaning requirements, they have staffing issues. She said the plan was to open fully with Phase 3.

Commissioners asked Department of Health Administrator Paul Myers whether he had any concerns about opening playgrounds, and he said, “I do not.” He said parents should use hand sanitizer and educate their kids to not touch their hands, eyes, or nose.

Cornell suggested that the County “beef up some signage” with those recommendations.

Lieberman was concerned that people would be confused if County playgrounds are open but playgrounds in other areas aren’t.

Cornell moved that they open Poe Springs at 50% capacity and open active parks with social distancing, hand washing, and “don’t touch your face” signage by Friday.

That motion passed 3-2, with Hutchinson and Commissioner Marihelen Wheeler in dissent. They had argued that it was risky to reopen playgrounds.

  • SMH… Masks should be optional and open everything up, especially outdoor activities – Ugh.

  • They still relish on their new found power and importance! Covid was like a heaven sent to them! Now that it’s over, it’s hard to let go, of course. Back to soggy straws – I feel their pain

  • Natural News (6/9/20): WHO says virtually no spread by asymptomatic carriers, vaccines and masks pointless

    Today the WHO declared that COVID-19 almost never spreads through asymptomatic carriers, all at once wiping out the entire justification for mandatory vaccines and contact tracing.

    Asymptomatic spread was the entire reason why world authorities demanded lockdowns, social distancing and masks, too. It was also the underlying justification for demanding mandatory vaccinations and contact tracing. After all, if the spread of coronavirus were limited to only those who obviously showed symptoms — and could therefore be easily identified and avoided — there would be no logical need for lockdowns, social distancing, masks, contact tracing or mandatory vaccines, since spreaders of the pandemic could be easily identified and avoided (or isolated with selective stay-at-home orders only for the symptomatic).

    All at once, the WHO has just exploded all these narratives that were so aggressively pushed by the CDC, Democrat governors, Dr. Fauci at the White House and even the WHO itself. Now, based on the WHO’s new admission, not only should every lockdown be immediately ended; any government effort to initiate new lockdowns should be vehemently rejected as being utterly groundless and anti-science.

  • I see lots of used face masks in the street, sidewalk, on
    the ground, etc. it’s NASTY! I always pick up regular trash & litter that
    I see floating around and put it in a garbage can….

    I’m sorry, I don’t pick up the dirty face masks with frequency too much…why? Because it’s disgusting and to me and an environmental biohazard!

    With all the talk of cleaning surfaces, and hand sanitizer, etc,…Can they do a dadgum public service announcement
    To not litter with the germ filled face mask and to please
    Dispose of them properly. I’m totally grossed out by the
    Masks and their wearers.

  • Here’s the knucklehead Chair’s response when someone suggested opening the park for free. Reader’s Digest version…”If we charge fees the park will be overwhelmed with people.”

    Isn’t he the brightest crayon in the box? Has anyone else noticed the rise of panhandling, homelessness on the streets of the city/county? The word is out, this particular city/county gives away all sorts of free stuff.

    Keep giving and they’ll keep coming.

  • There is only one remedy for the heavy handedness of this Alachua County Commission. Let us relive the Glory Days of January, 1861, and secede. Establish the Free State of Springs County. Because secession worked out so well last time, let’s try it again.

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