Editor's Note: If you think you might have COVID-19, contact the Alachua County Health Department at (352) 334-7900 or the Student Health Care Center at (352) 392-1161. The Alligator doesn’t have information about the names of these county and UF patients due to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, more commonly known as HIPAA, which protects patient privacy.
As of this morning, UF’s website shows that the university has a total of 14 positive COVID-19 cases –– three more than it recorded yesterday.
The three new cases include two students and an employee: a College of Business student, a graduate student in the College of Medicine and an employee in the College of Journalism and Communications. Both students live in off-campus housing.
Alachua County has two new positive cases as of 11 a.m., bringing the total number to 37, according to the Florida Department of Health. The department reported the youngest case to be confirmed in both the county and state -- a 2-year-old female Florida resident with an unknown history of travel.
Forty-two percent of the county’s cases are in their 20s, and 14 UF students are reported to have tested positive for the virus to date.
The other latest case is a 49-year-old male Florida resident with an unknown history of travel.
Alachua County declares stay at home order
County Commission Chair Robert Hutchinson and Mayor Lauren Poe held an emergency declaration briefing Monday where they announced a county-wide stay-at-home order.
They said the order, which will go into effect tonight at midnight, closes all non-essential businesses and gathering places. Some exceptions include emergency healthcare providers, grocery stores, supermarkets, convenience stores and take-out services at restaurants.
Despite pressure from concerned Floridians and representatives, Gov. Ron DeSantis has yet to issue a statewide stay-at-home order.
The only way to minimize the risk of the virus spreading, Hutchinson said, is if residents stay home.
“We can no longer wait for the government of Florida to join the other states, so we are taking this action now,” he said.
If the county doesn’t see a reduction of people in its public spaces, it is prepared to narrow the exceptions list, Hutchinson said. However, if people stay home and the rate of infections decreases, the county is willing to eventually repeal closures.
Hutchinson said the order was not a difficult decision. He believes the only way the county will flatten the curve, or slow the rate of infection, is through social distancing.
Also starting at midnight, county employees will be in charge of enforcement and answering phone calls about violations, even though the first days will not be strictly enforced, Hutchinson told The Alligator.
If the person or establishment continues to violate the order, code enforcement will be called, he said. Law enforcement will be a last resort. The county plans on code enforcement fines, but no arrests.
People who are outdoors engaging in physical activities, such as jogging, are not violating the order, Hutchinson said. Homeless residents not being aided or quarantined by Grace Marketplace are also not violating the order because the “street is their home.”
“A lot of folks are treating this like a big vacation, and they’re causing a problem,” he said. “We needed to do this –– it couldn’t wait.”
UF helping The Villages
UF is helping to expand access to COVID-19 testing by using a newly-developed test and implementing it in Central Florida.
Gov. Ron DeSantis held a press conference today with UF President Kent Fuchs and Michael Lauzardo, associate professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases and Global Medicine, to talk about how UF is bringing a mobile testing site to UF Health at The Villages. The state’s priority is helping and testing elderly communities, which are some of the most vulnerable to the illness.
The Villages is about an hour away from UF, and is home to the largest retirement community in the world with more than 100,000 residents.
Twenty-five UF Health medical professionals and more than 100 volunteer UF medical physicians and assistant nurses will help operate the testing site, DeSantis said. Appointments for the site are available online.
UF is expanding testing to people who do not meet the screening criteria set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The UF test does not have FDA-approval yet, but will help determine how prevalent COVID-19 is among people not showing symptoms, DeSantis said.
Lauzardo, who is overseeing the mobile testing site, said that the research they conduct in The Villages will help researchers understand more about COVID-19 transmission, as well as help meet clinical testing needs.
The staff will take 400 samples per day, totaling to 2,000 per week, DeSantis said. Anybody in the area can use the testing site, not just Villages property owners, he added.
The UF test has a shorter turnaround rate because it is sent to UF laboratories rather than the CDC or state laboratories, DeSantis said. Results will be delivered in 24 hours, and he said that people don’t have to live in The Villages to get tested.
Yet some UF students and others across the state have tried to get tested unsuccessfully. Other UF students who have been tested for the virus have reported that they had to wait three to four days for their test results.
UF released a website on Sunday showing that UF currently has 11 confirmed cases of COVID-19 — up from the four that DeSantis announced at a press conference on March 18. Currently, Alachua County has 37 positive cases and more than 1,000 cases in Florida. Sumter County, where the Villages is located, has eight confirmed cases.
Crafty Bastards restaurant cancels drive-in event
While Florida encourages people to practice social distancing, one restaurant is looking for crafty ways to keep business from dying down.
Following Mayor Poe’s order to restrict restaurant hours from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m on March 17, Gov. Ron DeSantis took a step further Friday by requiring all Florida restaurants to close their dining rooms and transition to delivery or takeout only.
Two days later, Crafty Bastards Restaurant and Pub, located at 4860 NW 39th Ave., promoted a drive-in movie night on Sunday as well as on future Sundays and Mondays, according to a Facebook post.
The restaurant also has another event –– Traffic Trivia –– scheduled for Tuesday, according to Facebook. The restaurant, according to the event description, invites people to pull up outside their building in cars to eat dinner and play trivia from their vehicles. Live music was also scheduled.
As of Sunday evening, it hasn’t been canceled, according to the Facebook event.
However, in a follow-up post on Sunday evening, the restaurant wrote that the drive-in movie night had been canceled and the City of Gainesville “got their wish.” It included a photo of a City of Gainesville Code Enforcement truck and a large blow-up movie screen.
The post read that “After tomorrow, Crafty’s will be closing till this sh** blows over.”
The Alligator reached out to city spokesperson Rossana Passaniti Sunday evening to ask if she could confirm if the city had shut down Crafty Bastards’ event or closed down the restaurant.
In an email, Passaniti, who was unable to directly answer either of these questions, wrote that the City of Gainesville Code Enforcement only asked the owners to take down the large screen they were using for the drive-in.
“That’s all,” she wrote. “They complied.”
As of Monday morning, Google shows that Crafty Bastards is ‘temporarily closed’. On Facebook, the restaurant is still advertising specials, and the owners commented that they’ll be closed until further notice after tomorrow.
Betty Brunson, the owner of Crafty Bastards, couldn’t be reached for comment by publication Monday afternoon.
Brunson told The Alligator on Friday she was concerned about how her employees would get by financially if the restaurant were to shut its doors.
“My thing is that the people making the decisions are still getting a paycheck,” Brunson said.
The Crafty Bastards also shared a GoFundMe page on their Facebook created by Caleb Stophel, an employee at the restaurant. The page, which was created Sunday afternoon with a goal of $22,000, reached $877 in donations on Monday afternoon.
Meghan McGlone, Sarah Mandile and Grethel Aguila contributed to this report.
Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
Meghan McGlone is a UF junior majoring in journalism and English, and this year she’s the City and County Commission reporter. In past years, she’s served as the University Editor, the Student Government reporter, and other positions. Her favorite past time is eating gummy worms and reading a good book.