The Alachua County Commission voted Tuesday to end the face mask requirement in its emergency order.
The order required employees and customers to wear a face covering in places where social distancing isn’t possible, such as retail stores. Now, wearing masks in public will only be “strongly recommended,” according to the commission.
The change passed by a 3-2 vote, with Commissioners Robert Hutchinson and Marihelen Wheeler voting against ending the requirement.
“I think the public is well-educated now, and I think most folks are wearing face coverings,” County Commissioner Ken Cornell said.
Cornell said the requirement can be reinstated if the number of positive COVID-19 cases in the county increases from 2.5 percent to 4 percent.
However, Commissioner Mike Bylery pushed back against setting a threshold.
“We can tie it to a number, I'm not sure how helpful that would be,” Bylery said. “Unavoidably, that number is going to be arbitrary.”
The commissioners also voted 3-2 to make the business occupancy limit one person per 500 square feet. Commissioners Charles Chestnut and Ken Cornell voted against the occupancy change.
Byerly said the opening of businesses could lead to a cycle that could cause a growth of COVID-19 cases in the county. He said returning to one per 500 square feet will reduce infections.
“Do we want the cycles to be shallow, or do we want them to be very steep?” he said. “We are throwing open the doors if we follow the governor’s standard.”
The commissioners also voted unanimously to open bowling alleys and billiard halls and clarified that tattoo parlors and piercing establishments are allowed to open as they are considered retail businesses.
Denise Garcia and Jeffery Davis wear face masks in downtown Gainesville. The commission voted Tuesday to end the face mask requirement in its emergency order.