Alachua Commissioners Address COVID-19 Spike, Amend Mask Policy
Alachua County Commissioners discussed in a meeting Tuesday afternoon how the county plans to handle the recent spike in COVID-19 cases, a plan which includes enforcing public compliance with warnings and citations for those who refuse to wear masks in public.
Paul Myers, administrator of the Alachua County Health Department, said that while the county has seen an increase in coronavirus cases, it continues to “lead the state” in virus testing, exceeding the state recommendation of testing 2% of the population during the months of May and June.
As of Tuesday, Alachua County has 738 confirmed cases and has administered over 35,000 tests, 11,000 of which have been in the past two weeks.
Myers said that while the first spike on June 11 was attributable to an agricultural community, the second spike is due to an increase in testing among young people 20 to 25 years old. He believes this stems from internships and jobs requiring employees to get tested.
This spike in testing among young people in Alachua County has decreased the median age for COVID-19 cases from 47 to 32.
Currently, it is mandatory for both employees and civilians to wear face masks inside establishments, with the exception of children under the age of 6 and those with health issues, making it difficult for them to wear face coverings.
However, some businesses have not been enforcing the required face coverings among customers.
The commissioners agreed to have code enforcement officers outside of businesses enforcing Alachua County’s local mask requirement seven days a week. These officers will issue warnings to those not wearing masks, and masks will be offered to those without.
The officers will issue citations to anyone exiting the respective establishment still without face a covering.
County Commissioner Mike Byerly voiced his concerns that people may try to take advantage of the fact that those with health issues are exempt from wearing masks by claiming to have medical conditions that they do not actually have. Other commissioners agreed that this could be a problem since no verification is required.
Myers pointed out that 15 states as well as numerous Florida counties require mandatory masks in public places, calling it “one tool in the toolbox to keep people safe.”