Alachua County declares state of emergency

Alachua County has again declared a state of emergency over the COVID-19 pandemic, citing the recent spike in case numbers and hospitalizations.

“We urge all residents to read the order and take all actions necessary to keep themselves, their families, and their community safe,” Ken Cornell, chair of the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC), said in a statement Thursday afternoon.

Cornell signed the four-page order Thursday afternoon and it will remain in effect for seven days.

“Should circumstances warrant I may extend this action for another seven days no later than August 12,” Cornell wrote in the order.

Alachua County first entered a state of emergency in March 2020 when the pandemic first ramped up in the United States. The county continuously extended the order until May 2021, when the BOCC allowed it to expire.

The expiration came just days after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis took executive action to end local emergency orders, saying they had limited personal freedoms for too long.

Thursday’s order appears to abide by DeSantis’ order, specifically noting it “does not limit the rights or liberties of individuals or businesses in the County.”

What the order does do is “allow certain streamlined operations” and give county officials “flexibility in the utilization of Federal, State and local Funds.”

In a statement accompanying the order, Cornell urged citizens to take precautions to prevent the spread of the delta variant.

“The County strongly recommends that the members of the public who have not been vaccinated get vaccinated, and all members of the public, including those who are vaccinated, should follow the guidelines of the CDC regarding washing hands frequently, social distancing and wearing masks indoors,” he said.

More Alachua County residents are heeding that call. The county reported 2,451 vaccinations last week, more than double the previous week’s number and almost triple the number vaccinated the week of July 16. 

Florida Department of Health in Alachua County has several upcoming free vaccination clinics scheduled. Details are available online

Meantime, UF Health’s chief epidemiologist, Dr. Nicole Iovine, spoke out Thursday on the safety and efficacy of the vaccines. 

“There’s a lot of misinformation out there on social media and some websites,” she said in a UF Health Q&A posted online. “More than 177 million people have been vaccinated and the rate of serious adverse events with the mRNA vaccines is extremely low—less than 0.001 percent…More than 99 percent of patients who die from COVID-19 are unvaccinated.”  

Editor’s note: This story has been updated. 

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