Alachua County Commissioners Vote To Extend Mask Mandate

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Alachua County Commissioners unanimously voted on Tuesday to extend the countywide mask mandate for another week. The motion maintains the local state of emergency for an additional seven days without modification.

In March, the county eased restrictions for individuals fully vaccinated against COVID-19. But on Aug. 18, the spike in COVID-19 cases due the delta variant motivated commissioners to implement a countywide week-long mask mandate. Since then, the mandate has been extended on a weekly basis.

The commission also decided to forego a motion regarding mask mandates on the University of Florida and Santa Fe College campuses.

“I think that we need to focus our code enforcement efforts in the community where they’re really needed,” Commissioner Anna Prizzia said. “At the end of the day, we asked them to be our partners…their message back to us was clear — they didn’t feel like they could do that at this time.”

Last week, Alachua County requested the University of Florida and Santa Fe College require masks in an effort to abide by the county’s guidelines on masking. Both the UF and Santa Fe are supervised by the Florida Board of Governors. The board currently has no position on guidelines for masking on college campuses.

There was concern that the Florida Gators’ first home game against Florida Atlantic University at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium would be a super-spreader event. At the commission meeting Tuesday, the administrator of the Alachua County Health Department confirmed that was not the case.

“We’ve been watching that very closely; there was no discernible impact from that game in the community,” Paul Myers said. “We did have a few days … where we saw a bit of an increase, but nothing where I could say that’s the smoking gun.”

Alachua County Public Schools is also requiring masks to be worn in the classroom despite the ongoing legal battle in Florida deciding whether or not school mask mandates are lawful.

About Kendall Brandt

Kendall Brandt is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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