Gainesville declares State of Emergency

Updating Breaking News:

Mayor Lauren Poe signed a declaration of pandemic emergency this evening. “We are all in this together,” he said.

City Manager Lee Feldman then outlined the specifics of the declaration.

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Non-essential places of public assembly, indoor or outdoor, will be limited to 50 individuals or 50 percent of occupancy. Places that are exceptions include pharmacies, grocery stores, airports, hardware stores, private offices, medical service suppliers, banks.

Non-essential food and beverage service establishments can seat 6 or less people per table, seating at bars is prohibit, no food service is allowed to customers while they are standing.

Non essential eating establishment have restricted operating hours of 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily but can provide takeout and delivery services outside those hours. 

RTS busses will run at 50 percent occupancy to keep social distancing.  They generally run at 37 to 45 people but will be reduced to half.

The declaration is effective at noon on March 17th and can be extended.

From an earlier report:

Enforcement of crowd sizes, quarantined first responders, letting non-violent offenders out of jail, the student population partying instead of preparing and dozens of more concerns and potential situations that might arise during a pandemic were aired at an emergency meeting held by the City of Gainesville on March 16.

At the same time as the City meeting, President Donald J. Trump was live announcing the latest news on national measures being taken to combat the spread of COVID-19.  

After hearing from the city manager, city attorney, assistant city manager, Gainesville Fire Rescue Chief, the entire city commission and from public comments made by community organization leaders and Alachua County Commission Chair Robert Hutchinson, Mayor Lauren Poe read off a compiled list of priorities and situations that need to be addressed as the City moves forward in combatting the virus also known as coronavirus which now has 4 confirmed cases in Alachua County.

Mayor Poe opened the meeting by asking for an explanation of what a Declaration of Emergency would mean.

City Attorney Nicolle Shalley explained that a Declaration of Emergency grants broader authority to the mayor and city manager to make decisions without having to convene the entire commission.

Poe said he is “Hoping for support from State and Federal levels, and hoping for “more aggressive action from the State,” as the pandemic unfolds.

But for Gainesville, the focus during the meeting was airing the concerns and priorities and giving advice on situations that will likely come before Mayor Poe and City Manager Lee Feldman that will need actions executed. 

Mayor Poe summarized what was presented to him at the end of the meeting as he read his notes back to the Commission:

  1. Contact Sheriff concerning suspension of eviction orders: Commissioners want to make sure people are forced to be homeless during the pandemic.

  2. Plan for positive test at jail: Commission wants to know what plans have been made in case a prisoner tests positive. One way of alleviating the density of local jails will be to release any non-violent offender being held because they can’t afford bail while awaiting trial.

  3. Commissioners are demanding more info on testing. Where it will be done, who can get a test and the waiving of costs for COVID-19 test?

  4. Establish potential quarantine spots for homeless.

  5. The need for COVID-19 updates to be in more languages.

  6. A statement from healthcare facilities that immigrant status doesn’t matter for anyone seeking to be tested.

City Feldman provided information on local limits to social and business gatherings and stated that the City will adhere to the CDC limiting of groups. All places of public assembly indoor and outdoor of 50 people or 50 percent of the occupancy load, he explained, excluding some businesses such as pharmacies and grocery stores where citizens will need to go to, “get basic needs met.”

As the City prepares to deal with the pandemic, Mayor Poe reminded meeting guests and online viewers of a Telephone Town Hall about COVID-19 scheduled for Wednesday, March 18 at 6:45 p.m.

The panel for the event will include: Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe, Assistant Professor in the Department of Community Health and Family Medicine Dr. Lisa Chacko and members of the City of Gainesville Emergency Management Team who will provide an update about the virus and field questions from callers. 

The event is open to everyone by phone regardless of district. Neighbors with landlines are invited to register in advance and receive a call back to get connected automatically at the time of the event. Cell phone users can dial indirectly by calling 1-888-410-3427.

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