County residents will not need the county’s permission to throw house parties during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Alachua County Commission voted 3 to 2 to reject a change to its emergency order Tuesday that would have required residents to register indoor social gatherings with more than 10 people. The goal of the change was for law enforcement to break up unregistered house parties, ideally reducing the spread of COVID-19.
The proposed changes would have required hosts to submit an electronic form that included the gathering’s location and size, said county attorney Sylvia Torres. Hosts would have also been required to post signs reminding people to wear face masks and respect social distancing.
They would have had to keep a list of all attendants to supply to county contact tracers if someone tested positive for COVID-19.
County Commissioner Mike Byerly, who voted against the registration requirement, said the county shouldn’t require citizens to ask for permission to host gatherings in their own homes. He doubted residents would register gatherings.
“It would be worse than the marijuana laws,” he said. “You make a mockery of the law by passing laws you know no one supports and no one will go along with.”
The requirement would have given local law enforcement authority to break up large gatherings on private property, Hutchinson said. Now, the commission has no solution for dealing with house parties.
UF officials asked the commission to pass the registration requirement to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks from student house parties, Hutchinson said.
More than 270 UF students have tested positive at UFs student health care center, according to the UF health COVID 19 update dashboard. More than 640 UF students, staff or affiliates are currently in isolation or quarantine. The Alligator has confirmed at least 15 UF dorm residents have tested positive for COVID-19 so far this semester. Hutchinson said he’s meeting with UF officials Thursday morning to discuss the commission’s decision.
“I’m going to tell them we have nothing,” Hutchinson said.