Breaking News: County Commission tightens enforcement of face covering requirement

Two days after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced plans to more closely monitor businesses in non-compliance of COVID-19 operating guidelines, Alachua County is stepping up its code enforcement efforts.

In a unanimous vote on June 23rd, the Board of County Commissioners passed a motion that includes directing eight code enforcement officers to concentrate on enforcing the emergency order face mask rule seven days a week and developing a strategy to target areas of concern of non-compliance such as grocery stores.

The motion put forward by Commissioner Ken Cornell asked for increasing code enforcement efforts to focus on the issue and then having them report back to the BOCC with further recommendations about where to concentrate efforts.

The motion also included “Patron/Public Mask Requirement and education” in the form of public service announcements and with having code enforcement officers remind and educate people outside of business establishments.

Those code enforcement officers will, “Issue a “warning” that states the violations and penalty for violations,” according to the motion and that warning will resemble “as closely as possible” an official citation and will include a statement as to why the requirement is in place.

According to the motion, all businesses will be required to post signage that announces the requirement of using face masks and social distancing at the entry of the business.

The face covering requirement as outlined by the Alachua County order states that the “Use of face coverings and personal protective equipment,” applies to “Persons working in or visiting grocery stores, restaurants, retail facilities, 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.”

The BOCC amended the order on May 5th to increase the age of children required to wear a face covering and to accommodate any medical issues or disabilities.

“A face 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. “

If citations are issued the first offense is $125, second offense $250 and third offense is $500 plus a court appearance.   

Administrator of the Alachua County Health Department Paul Myers said he turned over 135,000 masks to the county. The BOCC discussed making those masks available to hand out to those in non-compliance.

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