County puts discussion of shutdown plan on hold

Alachua County Commission Chair Robert Hutchinson substituted his household hammer for a gavel and used it to adjourn the April 7th emergency meeting without having a full discussion about a possible future shutdown plan at the commission’s request.

“It takes a week to get them right,” Hutchinson reminded commissioners about how the previous emergency orders have played out. He suggested the commission discuss the details of a shutdown order sooner than later.

“Draft it now, circulate it and have it in our hip pocket ready in case the surge happens,” he said.

But the rest of commission convinced Hutchinson to put his plan on hold because they didn’t want to stir up citizens until it was closer to being a reality.

Commissioner Mike Byerly thanked Hutchinson for thinking ahead but said it was too soon to talk about it.

“I understand why the exercise is needed,” Byerly said. “But it puts gas on social media… bits and pieces will filter out.”

Byerly worried that mentioning a curfew and required face mask and other shutdown rules would be drastic for the community and cause too much concern.

Commissioner Ken Cornell agreed that the planning exercise would be good in the future but it would be “counterproductive to discuss now.”

Cornell then referred to statistics to back his rationale. “Two weeks ago we were first per capita and now we are 15th,” he said about positive COVID-19 cases reported in Alachua County, and he reminded the commission that Alachua County has not experienced any deaths.

Cornell asked that the commission first “identify triggers that would warrant the discussions.

“Hospitals are preparing, but not ready to ask us to,” Cornell said. “At this point, I’d rather focus on what types of triggers would we be looking at to have these types of discussions.”

Commissioner Marihelen Wheeler said that such an order would be  “nice to have at a moment’s notice,” but deferred to Hutchinson for a final decision.

Commissioner Charles Chestnut also wanted to wait for “triggers from hospitals and the health department.”

Hutchinson then turned the focus to acknowledging that local hospitals have been working with the community so far, but he was “worried about the day it might double,” he said about COVID-19 cases. “Whatever we do today impacts hospitals in two weeks,” he reminded the commission. “This is just about preparedness. “

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