BOCC to discuss county emergency order in response to governor’s May 4th opening

The Alachua County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) will convene on Friday, May 1 at 10 a.m. for a special meeting that has one item on the agenda: Local Response to State Emergency Order.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he will not prevent county and city governments from customizing their reopening strategies as he outlined a Phase 1 plan for 64 counties.

Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties have too many cases and a higher positivity rate, DeSantis acknowledged during a presentation of his reopening plan on April 29 , and declined to release them from the April 3rd requirements of an executive order directing statewide essential service and activities.

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The BOCC started discussing face mask rules during the April 28th regular meeting and had mixed opinions about making them a requirement for Alachua County residents.

Commissioner Mike Byler said the county should “turn to the best authority,” when deciding about masks.

Paul Myers, administrator of the Alachua County Health Department, who was at the meeting, said that the science is on both sides of the issue but reminded the BOCC that the CDC indicates wearing cloths covers where social distancing is difficult.

Byerly said studies reveal cloth masks are ineffective and reminded commissioners that people who suffer from asthma or bronchitis might have trouble wearing masks if they were required.

Commissioner Ken Cornell said he thought masks should be worn when “interacting in a place of business, not outside,” and that he respects the opinion of Dr. Glenn Morris, UF Professor and Director of the Emerging Pathogen Institute who informed him that masks can reduce community spread.

“Masking doesn’t protect you,” Cornell said. It protects the person you are interacting with.”

Commission Chair Robert Hutchinson added to the discussion that wearing face masks “keeps you from touching your face.”

Commissioner Marihelen Wheeler agreed and said that “masks are a way to make people remember that this is an issue.”

Commissioner Charles Chestnut, who operates a funeral home, said “I would wear a mask until we at least have a vaccine just to keep people safe and keep my family safe.

“It’s common sense,” Chestnut said. “It’s airborne and we don’t know who has it.”

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