Wednesday night Newberry Mayor Jordan Marlowe announced Commissioner Ricky Coleman is no longer on a ventilator, only hours after Marlowe confirmed Coleman was on a ventilator fighting COVID-19.
It's unclear how Coleman's condition improved so quickly, but in a Facebook post Marlowe said the commissioner is "doing well."
"On behalf of his family, they would like to thank everyone for the prayers, positive comments, and love that has been shown to them," Marlowe wrote.
Marlowe said Coleman "isn't out of the woods yet" and called on the community to come together as it battles the pandemic: "[L]et’s each try to do what we can, when we can, for each other."
Our original story:
Newberry Mayor Jordan Marlowe has announced that Newberry Commissioner Ricky Coleman has been hospitalized with COVID-19, confirming weeks of speculation.
"Some of you may have heard that Commissioner Coleman has been hospitalized with Covid-19," Marlowe wrote on his official Facebook page. "He is stable, but he is on a ventilator."
Coleman was absent from the regular meeting on Jan. 11.
"I hope you will all join the Commission and myself in keeping Ricky and his family in your thoughts and prayers," Marlowe wrote. "Commissioner Clark is keeping me and the Commission updated so that we don’t overwhelm the family, and I will let the community know as soon as he is off the ventilator."
According to Coleman's official Facebook page, he announced that he had COVID-19 on Jan. 3 and has not posted about it since. He posted that many of his family members caught the virus and commented, "This crap is bad and real!! At least social distance."
Coleman and the entire Newberry Commission were adamant that they did not want Newberry to enforce the face mask mandate ordered by the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners.
"Who has the authority here?” asked Mayor Jordan Marlowe during the May 11 meeting, when the Newberry Commission discussed exiting its State of Emergency Order voted to do so, then voted to reenter when they learned the exit might affect funding to cover costs incurred during the pandemic.
At the May 21 regular meeting, the Newberry Commission opted to follow the state emergency order instead of the county's. That vote removed the requirement of wearing a face mask in city limits.
The Newberry Commission's order claimed that Alachua County’s Emergency Order is unconstitutional, even though a judge on May 21st denied the request for an emergency injunction motion that challenged making face mask wearing mandatory in Alachua County.
Marlowe’s public rationale to challenge Alachua County’s authority to set more strict rules is that only the Florida governor can set the rules for the state and that local municipalities know what is best for their businesses and residents.
Newberry's order states: “The City Commission has serious concerns regarding the County’s Emergency Orders, including constitutional deficiencies, liberty interests, the Counties [sic] failure to consult the other municipalities within the County prior to reconsidering mandatory face masks and chaos and confusion caused by inconsistent and conflicting messages to the citizens."
Newberry's position is that rural areas do not need to enforce face mask rules.
“The mandatory face mask provisions are unnecessary within the City of Newberry as the City is less densely populated than the City of Gainesville and other areas within the County,” the Order states.
Mayor Marlowe shared the news about the city’s order on his official Facebook page: “Today, I signed the resolution which places the City of Newberry under the same emergency order as the Governor. This order is now the law inside the City of Newberry."
At that May 11 meeting Commissioner Ricky Coleman made his opinion clear: “(I'm) not in favor of [a] state of emergency.”
At the time of the decision on May 11 the state reported 41,923 residents with COVID-19 and 1,779 deaths. In Alachua County on that date there were 324 COVID-19 cases and five deaths. As of Jan. 20, 2021 the state reports 1,589,097 cases of COVID-19, with 24,436 deaths. Alachua County reports 18,986 cases and 156 deaths.
The FDOH also reports 958 residents in the 32669 ZIP Code have tested positive for COVID-19. The figure includes residents in Jonesville and Newberry.
In Marlowe's announcement today he asked that the community rally behind Commissioner Coleman and pray that he recovers.
"His family has asked for privacy while they focus on getting him through this difficult time," Marlowe stated.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to include the most recent COVID numbers.