Breaking News: County Commission drops face mask mandate

The Alachua County Board of County Commissioners voted 3-2 at a special emergency meeting today to drop the mandatory face mask order, instead making it strongly recommended, matching the State Order.
This is a breaking news story and will be update as more details are known.
From Sunday:
On Sunday, Robert Hutchinson, BOCC Chair, issued Emergency Order 2020-25 in response to and cooperation with the Governor’s Executive Order 20-123.
Highlights include all businesses the Governor is allowing to operate may have up to 50% occupancy (read below for exceptions), gyms may open, the mandatory masking provision is still in place (see item 4 for details).
The essentials of the new order incluude:
1. While Executive Orders 20-112 and 20-123 provides more opportunity to be outside the home, and in close contact with others, those who are vulnerable to infection should stay home as much as possible. Those who are not considered to be at risk should use prudence when leaving their home and stay at home, if possible.
2. Except as provided herein, all public places where social distancing is difficult to effectuate are closed to the public, including but not limited to, locations with amusement rides, carnivals, water parks, zoos, arcades, fairs, children’s play centers, playgrounds, theme parks, bowling alleys, pool halls, movie and other theaters, concert and music halls, country clubs, social clubs and fraternal organizations.
3. All services and activities permitted to be operated by Governor DeSantis’ Executive Orders (in existence as of this Emergency Order and executed subsequent to this Emergency Order) may operate in Alachua County pursuant to the standards contained herein and referenced by this Emergency Order. All services and activities not permitted to operate by Governor DeSantis’ Executive Orders (in existence as of this Emergency Order and executed subsequent to this Emergency Order) may not operate in Alachua County. To the extent any of the services or activities not permitted to operate have on-site retail sales facilities as part of their operation, on-site retail sales may operate subject to the limitations below and calculating occupancy based upon the retail space only.
a. Except as exempted herein, all services and activities permitted to operate by this Section shall operate at no more than 50% of their building occupancy.
i. Hospitals or other medical facilities following appropriate use of personal protective equipment as required by their licensing bodies may exceed 50% of their building occupancy.
ii. Child care facilities may exceed 50% of their building occupancy and use reasonable occupancy limits as allowed by their licenses if they require their staff to use personal protective equipment and screen children for exposure to COVID-19.
b. All services and activities shall comply, to the greatest extent feasible, with social distancing requirements as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and the Surgeon General of Florida, including by maintaining six-foot distance between both employees and members of the public always, including when any customers are standing in line.
c. All services and activities shall abide by the safety guidelines issued by the CDC and OSHA, including but not limited to OSHA guidelines regarding COVID-19 found in publication 3990:
or subsequent rules. To the extent any business is governed by licensure or board requirements which are stricter than those of the CDC or OSHA, those board requirements will take precedence and are mandated by this Order. A list will be developed covering Industry Specific Operating Standards for Pandemic Response which will be the standard used for enforcement. Services and activities shall ensure that workers are educated about the required safety standards and shall ensure that the standards be present on the worksite. The County’s 311 phone number shall be available to take anonymous complaints from employees who believe that they are being required to work in sub-standard conditions.
d. All services and activities should make every effort to maintain no more than 50% of the onsite workforce capacity, where possible and to the extent that reduction can be accomplished without significantly disrupting the ability to conduct services and activities.
e. In-store retail establishments are encouraged to utilize curbside service and via delivery to limit face to face contact.
f. Restaurants and food establishments, licensed under Chapters 500 or 509, Fla. Stat., shall meet social distancing standards. Outdoor seating does not count against indoor occupancy but shall meet the requirements of social distancing. In addition to other restrictions found in this Emergency Order and Governor’s Orders, restaurants and food establishments shall comply with the Food and Drug Administration “Best Practices for Retail Food Stores, Restaurants, and Food Pick Up and Delivery Services During the Covid-19 Pandemic.”
g. Private museums, libraries, botanical gardens and wildlife preserves may operate at 50% occupancy, but shall not allow any use of interactive displays or playground equipment.
4. Use of facial coverings.
a. Persons working in or visiting grocery stores, restaurants, in-store retail establishments, pharmacies, construction sites, public transit vehicles, vehicles for hire, along with locations where social distancing measures are not possible shall wear facial coverings as defined by the CDC.
b. Facial covering includes any covering which snugly covers the nose and mouth, whether store bought or homemade, and which is secured with ties or ear loops. Examples of compliant home-made masks may be found at
Persons should not utilize N95 rated masks, as those are critical supplies for health care workers, police, fire, emergency management, or other persons engaged in life/safety activities. Persons who wear facial coverings should review the CDC and Florida Department of Health guidelines regarding safely applying, removing, and cleaning face coverings.
c. A facial covering shall not be required for children under six, persons who have trouble breathing due to a chronic pre-existing condition or individuals with a documented or demonstrable medical problem.
d. This Emergency Order does not change or alter any social distancing requirements imposed by this or in any other emergency order.
e. Facial coverings do not have to be worn while eating or drinking.
5. Pools. Indoor and outdoor pools may operate or open subject to the following standards.
a. Pools shall meet the standards set by the CDC
and Florida Administrative Code §64E-9.004 for disinfectant level.
b. All seating and tables around any pool shall be set up with social distancing of at least 6 feet between groupings and fixed in some way so they cannot be easily rearranged.
c. Activity in pools shall be limited to activities with social distancing and occupancy of 1 person per 100 square feet of water surface. Groupings outside the pool shall be limited to no more than 10 individuals.
d. The owners/operators of these pools shall post signs explaining these rules and monitor the pool for compliance with the health standards and use limitations on a reasonable basis.
e. Pool houses and locker rooms shall limit their occupancy to 50% occupancy and shall ensure that surfaces within businesses are disinfected in accordance with applicable CDC guidelines. Employees working in pool houses, locker rooms, around pools and in similar areas shall wear facial coverings.
6. Groups of people greater than ten are not permitted to congregate in any public space that does not readily allow for appropriate physical distancing. Groups greater than 10 may be ordered to disperse. This includes any gathering which takes place in the commons area of any multiple residence facility.
7. Severability. Any provision(s) within this Emergency Order that conflict(s) with any State or Federal law or constitutional provision, including the State’s preemption of the regulation of firearms and ammunition codified in Sect. 790.33, Fla. Stat., or conflict(s) with or are superseded by a current or subsequently-issued Executive Order of the Governor or the President of the United States, shall be deemed inapplicable and deemed to be severed from this Emergency Order, with the remainder of the Emergency Order remaining intact and in full force and effect. To the extent application of some or all the provisions of this Emergency Order is prohibited on the sovereign land of a federally or state recognized sovereign Indian tribe, such application is expressly excluded from this Emergency Order.
8. Effective Date; Duration. This Emergency Order supersedes any inconsistent emergency order. This Order shall be effective May 18, 2020 at 12:01 a.m. and will stay in effect during the pendency of the state of emergency or until adoption of subsequent order or repeal.
9. This Emergency Order is in addition to the Executive Orders issued by Governor DeSantis.
10. This Emergency Order applies to incorporated and unincorporated areas within Alachua County, but has no application outside of Alachua County. Municipalities have the authority to enforce this County Order within their jurisdiction.
11. The County or municipalities within its boundaries will direct any establishment to cease and desist operations that are in violation of this Emergency Order and may treat violations as a violation of County or Municipal ordinance as appropriate. The County has jurisdiction countywide to enforce the terms of this Order.
12. This Emergency Order does not apply to operations of local governments within the county, to the State University System, State College System, the State of Florida, or Federal agencies who are encouraged to adopt their own rules and procedures regarding the matters set forth herein.
13. Any violation of these emergency measure(s) shall be a violation of Sec. 252.50, Fla. Stat., and may be punishable as provided therein and shall be enforced by law enforcement as provided by law. For failure to wear face coverings in compliance with this Order, the County or municipalities within their jurisdictions will direct any individual acting in violation of this Emergency Order to come into compliance immediately. Failure to comply with the requirements of section 8 of this Emergency Order presents a serious threat to the public health, safety, and welfare, pursuant to Chapt. 162, Fla. Stat., and a citation may be issued immediately for such violation. The first violation of section 8 of this Emergency Order shall be subject to a fine of $125.00 to the violator. The second violation of section 8 of this Emergency Order shall be subject to a fine of $250.00 to the violator. All subsequent violations of section 8 of this Order shall constitute a Class V violation under Art. II, Chapt. 24 of the Alachua County Code of Ordinances, requiring a mandatory court appearance and subject to a fine not to exceed $500.00. All other remedies available at law or equity, including injunction, remain available to the County, even after issuance of a citation.

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