County wants citizens, employees to report violations of emergency order

 Comb any social media group discussing Alachua County businesses and the Stay At Home order put into effect two weeks ago by the county and you will find comments about a range of infractions.

Lack of social distancing and lack of personal protective equipment are the main complaints. One patient observed an overcrowded diagnostic lab and was told ‘no’ when she asked if she could wait in her car and be called when it was her turn instead of remaining in a full room.

A retail employee wanted to wear a mask because he interacts with the public so frequently and was told ‘no’ by the employer.

At the March 27th Alachua County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) meeting Commission Chair Robert Hutchinson said there is zero tolerance for businesses ignoring the order.

“We have an anonymous site for employees who believe they are working in unsafe conditions,” Hutchinson said and referred to a COVID-19 portal at www.alachuacounty.us where anyone can report a violation of the order.

Click on “Report an Emergency Order Violation” and you will be prompted to call 311 if you are reporting a gathering of ten or more people.

For other violations the form asks for subject, comments, name and address of business and any details you want to provide.

According to Chair Hutchinson, code enforcement will take three steps in response to violations reporter by citizens and employees via the website or by calling 311.

The first notice will come via a telephone call alerting the business that the violation has been reported and the business will be educated about the error.

The second complaint on a business warrants a site visit from code enforcement.

On the third report, code enforcement has the right to come out and issue a citation or shut a business down, he said.

“Beyond that, the sheriff’s office could get involved.”

The commission discussed whether to change the store occupancy rate of one customer per 1,000 square feet of floor space in retail businesses but Hutchinson stood firm.

“It sends the wrong message if we relaxed rules about social distancing,” he said.

In fact, Hutchinson said, the emergency order will most like get more strict.

“I think the situation is going to get worse before it gets better,” he said. Once statistics reveal that, Hutchinson said he won’t have a choice.

“The next order will be shut it all down.” 

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