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Saturday, February 24, 2024
<p>Denise Garcia and Jeffery Davis wear face masks in downtown Gainesville.</p>

Denise Garcia and Jeffery Davis wear face masks in downtown Gainesville.

The Alachua County Commission decided it’s still too soon to end the mask mandate that’s been in place since June. 

The mandate requires customers to wear masks in businesses to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The commission also voted to add a section to the order barring county officials from asking residents for proof of vaccination.

The vote passed 4-1, with Commissioner Mary Alford in dissent on changing the order’s language regarding gathering of masked individuals.

“When you're winning the game, you don't change the strategy,” Alford said, “And I feel like we're winning the game.”

Commissioner Anna Prizzia said the majority of people who have sent written comments to the board were business owners asking to keep the mandate.

The commission also discussed reversing its decision to allow vaccinated residents to gather without masks, but did not take this to a vote.

Prizzia urged the commission to remove the language in the order that mentions vaccinated individuals. Because the commission cannot ask residents for proof of vaccination, Prizzia said this part of the order was unnecessary.

She said she supported this reversal because it is unknown whether vaccinated individuals can spread the virus.

To County Attorney Sylvia Torres, this change would make the commission’s order more restrictive.

“The CDC says it's fine for (vaccinated individuals) to gather, and you are, in essence, saying it is not okay for them to gather,” Torres said.

Alford, who was in favor of keeping the section in the order, said even though masks for large gatherings can’t be enforced, she wants the commission’s guidelines to be clear.

County Commission Chair Ken Cornell said he agreed with the decision to remove mention of vaccinated individuals in the order, as it has caused confusion for residents.

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Torres will review the language change before it makes its way into the order.

Cornell said he wants to wait to lift the mandate altogether until UF Health and the Alachua County Health Department recommend to do so.

“I’d like to give them a chance to finish this game,” he said.

Cornell advised lifting the mask mandate when the current emergency order expires on May 12.

Contact Jack Prator at Follow him on Twitter @jack_prator.

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Jack Prator

Jack is a UF journalism sophomore covering the Gainesville City Commission. If he's not in a hammock at the plaza he is probably watching the Queen's Gambit for the fifth time. 

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