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Sunday, February 05, 2023

COVID-19 outbreak postpones City Commission meetings

Commissioners’ positive test results and a county-wide rise in COVID-19 cases canceled city meetings and workshops

Gainesville City Commission’s Thursday meeting was canceled due to a COVID-19 outbreak among officials.

Mayor Lauren Poe and Commissioners David Arreola and Harvey Ward tested positive for the virus. Another commissioner is absent due to a family emergency, prompting the cancellation of the meeting. 

The commission planned to discuss making GRACE Marketplace, located at 3055 NE 28th Drive, a hurricane shelter; naming a lake on UF’s campus; its fiscal year budget for 2023; the proposed Eighth Avenue and Waldo Road sports complex; GPD’s Cadet program; the interim charter officer six-month progress update and waste regulations. 

Since testing positive, Ward said he has distanced himself from non-family members in a Thursday Facebook post. 

“I don’t want to sit in a roomful of healthy people and accidentally infect them just by being there,” Ward wrote.

A May 14 press release from Interim City Manager Cynthia Curry announced meeting and workshop postponements following the rise in COVID-19 cases in Alachua County.

According to data from the Florida State Health Department, new positive cases more than doubled between the weeks of April 22 and May 6, which has contributed to the upward trend of positive transmission. Since then, 584 cases have been reported.

“The most recent mutation of Omicron is the most transmissible, the most contagious version yet,” Poe said.

Poe encouraged residents to wear masks indoors or in large groups, get vaccinated and socially distance. Arreola was among four commissioners who voted to pass a city vaccine mandate Aug. 5, 2021, which remained in effect until Sept. 23, 2021.

This is the second time Arreola said he has tested positive for COVID-19.

“I've always viewed it as my duty to share with people the reality of the seriousness,” he said. “It's a brutal sickness, and the second time around is always harder.” 

The city plans to reschedule community meetings on affordable housing to June 1 and June 4.

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Poe hopes next week’s meetings will proceed as scheduled but said he will reassess the risk of transmission to maintain public health and safety.

Contact Mickenzie Hannon at Follow her on Twitter @MickenzieHannon.

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Mickenzie Hannon

Mickenzie is the local elections reporter and previously covered city and county commission for The Alligator’s Metro Desk. She's a fourth-year journalism major and is specializing in data journalism. When Mickenzie isn’t writing, she enjoys watching horror movies, reading, playing with her pets and attending concerts.

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