Alachua County mask mandate set to expire

An emergency action requiring face mask wearing while indoors in public spaces in Alachua County expires on Thursday.

The Alachua County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) passed the mandate last month amid sharply rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. The state limited how many times local governments can extend emergency orders, but on Tuesday hospital officials told the BOCC that case numbers had dropped back down to acceptable levels. 

The Alachua County Health Department is still advising that residents remain vigilant in getting vaccinated for COVID-19 and for the flu in order to avoid a “twindemic.”

Paul Myers, administrator for Florida Department of Health in Alachua County, told the BOCC on Tuesday that getting vaccinated, wearing a mask, staying 6 feet away from others, avoiding crowds and washing hands are the keys to getting through the winter healthy as flu season overlaps the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If you want a vaccine in Alachua County, you can find one,” Myers said.

Pfizer booster shots for fully vaccinated residents are available to those 65 and older, residents of long-term care facilities, those ages 18 to 64 with underlying medical conditions and ages 18 to 64 with increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of their occupational or institutional setting.

Myers said those with occupations such as firefighters, police, teachers or any job with prolonged exposure to people are recommended to get vaccinated.

The BOCC voted to extend the $25 gift card program through Oct. 31. The cards are available at local CVS pharmacies and at the health department. Not all locations are participating so call ahead then schedule an appointment online.

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