BOCC to review COVID order at Tuesday meeting

Empty board meeting room with table and black chairs
Empty board meeting room with table and black chairs

The Alachua County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) will review Emergency Order 2021-13 on Tuesday and decide whether to extend it based on information delivered by the county health department.

The order addresses Phase 3 of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ step by step recovery plan.

The most recent version of the county order requires businesses and employers to take responsibility and liability for employee compliance to COVID-19 mitigation efforts, including wearing masks.

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The order as it stands also states that groups with more than 50 people are “not permitted to congregate in a space that does not readily allow for appropriate social distancing unless individuals are wearing facial coverings.”

The current county order is in effect until May 12 or until Alachua County no longer has declared a local state of emergency. 

DeSantis recently revoked any ability for Florida governments to issue fines against individuals, causing the BOCC to turn to businesses to enforce mitigation efforts.

After hearing from Paul Myers, administrator for the Florida Department of Health in Alachua County, the BOCC will make a decision on whether to let the EO expire.

On Monday Myers said that Alachua County is in good shape.

“The good news is that our positivity rates have decreased over the last several months, and Alachua County continues to lead the state with the lowest overall positivity rate and the lowest pediatric positivity rate,” he said in a phone interview. “We are leaders with one of the lowest long-term care death rates in the state and one of the highest per capita testing rates.”

Myers said the county is also among the state leaders in vaccinations and hospitalization rates, leaving the healthcare system “in excellent condition.”

“We are also vaccinating significant numbers of out of county residents, specifically college age students,” Myers said. 

On February 26 DeSantis signed the latest order extending EO 20-52 by 60 days, which will keep it in place until April 26.

During the last regular meeting BOCC Chair Ken Cornell said the board would consider letting the county order expire if the governor was planning to let the state order expire. The BOCC will weigh that against the Myers report.

According to the Alachua County COVID-19 recovery dashboard, health officials have vaccinated more than 94,000 residents, with 32,666 receiving their first dose and 61,771 receiving both doses.

The total positivity rate for Alachua County is up to 4.66 percent, but the 14-day average positivity rate is 3.1 percent. The positive rate on April 11 was 2.51 percent.

The county reports 262 deaths related to COVID-19, and there is currently an average combined hospital occupancy rate of 82.16 percent as of Monday.

The Florida COVID-19 dashboard reports more than 2 million Florida residents have tested positive for COVID-1 since March 2020. The state’s case by day chart from the past 30 days reveals a range of daily case counts from 7,839 reported on April 7 to 1,656 reported on Sunday.

Data from the FDOH resident deaths by date of death page is missing.

Since March 2020, local county numbers are as follows:

  • Alachua County: 23,887 cases, 1,154 hospitalizations, 262 deaths
  • Levy: 3,207 cases, 209 hospitalizations, 46 deaths
  • Marion: 29,618 cases, 2,012 hospitalizations, 938 deaths
  • Columbia: 7,950 cases, 462 hospitalizations, 164 deaths
  • Gilchrist: 1,538 cases, 76 hospitalizations, 40 deaths

Myers said that Alachua County residents should remain vigilant and continue practicing social distancing, especially if not vaccinated.

“Stay home when ill and practice good cough/sneeze etiquette,” he advised. “Until we vaccinate many more county residents that are in their 20s and 30s, we will continue to see this disease spread, albeit in a demographic that doesn’t suffer the worst impacts of this disease. We are in a race against time and must overcome vaccine hesitancy.”

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