BOCC extends mask mandate as COVID cases drop

Alachua County Board of County Commissioners agreed on Monday to stay the current state of emergency and to continue to require face mask use indoors through Sept. 30.

Paul Myers, administrator for the Florida Department of Health in Alachua County, delivered good news that numbers are trending in the right direction.

Myers reported that Alachua County has had 37,590 cases, an overall case positivity rate of 16.7 percent and a rate of 361.1 cases per 100,000 as of Friday.

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With 985 new COVID-19 cases reported for the week of Sept. 10-16, Myers said there’s good reason for optimism.

“This is the first time that we have identified less than 1,000 cases in a week since mid-July,” he said.

The current weekly positivity rate of 8.5 percent is down three points from the 11.5 percent rate reported for the week of Sept. 3 -19.

Adults hospitalizations are trending down, while pediatric cases have leveled off at 7 down from 16 in late August, Myers told the BOCC.

Myers noted Florida and Alachua County’s two-pronged approach as the reason for the downward trending numbers.

“The approach is prevention through vaccination, but the second is through treatment,” he said.

The monoclonal antibody site in High Springs went from 150 treatments two weeks ago to 80 a day last week.

“This reflects the severity of the disease declining,” Myers said.

Myers reiterated that the Alachua County Department of Health (DOH) is still taking walk-ins for vaccinations, but those with COVID-19 symptoms need to make a testing appointment by calling (352) 334-8810.

The DOH is open for testing by appointment only Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Walk-in vaccinations are held Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

According to BOCC Chair Ken Cornell, who said he spoke with Alachua County Schools Superintendent Carlee Simon, the face mask rule for staff and students remains in effect through mid-October, after which the School Board of Alachua County will vote on whether to maintain the requirement until vaccines are approved and deemed safe for children under 12 years old by the Food and Drug Administration.

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