In a virtual emergency meeting live-streamed to the public on Tuesday evening, County Commissioners discussed how the new stay-at-home order should be applied in Alachua County.
Commissioners met remotely through Zoom, a video conferencing service, to discuss which businesses should be classified as essential during the stay-at-home order, which took effect early today amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The order requires all non-essential businesses to close.
Over the weekend, County Commissioner Robert Hutchinson said he created a document outlining how the stay-at-home order will be applied to specific city functions, drawing inspiration from similar orders in Illinois and Broward County.
Aside from grocery stores and health care providers, commissioners discussed if construction companies, used car lots, pawn shops and moving services should also be considered essential businesses.
However, the commission did not officially vote on this, as they did not plan to make any motions or votes during the meeting.
Aside from discussing what businesses are classified as essential, commissioners also talked about what type of restrictions should be in place toward how many are allowed inside at once for businesses that are still open.
All businesses in the county are currently limited to a maximum occupancy of one person for every 1,000 square feet. County Commissioner Mike Byerly expressed concerns about the long lines this has created outside of grocery stores, like what happened at Publix and other stores today. An average Publix can be between 40,000 to 60,000 square feet.
Increased use of meal and grocery delivery services was suggested by Hutchinson as a way to reduce lines, but Commissioner Charles Chestnut expressed concerns that many citizens on the east side of town don’t have access to internet services to use them.
“Those are the people that I see on Main Street in lines, so that’s a major concern,” Chestnut said
While Chestnut said he recently saw grocery lines with customers “standing clumped together,” Hutchinson observed several that were “carefully monitored by employees” with customers spaced out by 6 feet, he said.
County Commissioner Ken Cornell, who agreed with Byerly that grocery lines have gotten too long, suggested changing maximum store occupancy to 1 person every 500 square feet.
The commission said they’d make a decision about grocery lines by the end of the week.
Chestnut also mentioned that many community members have expressed concerns to him about the numbers of people gathering at church services. The commission discussed that they’ll encourage churches to move services online like many others have.
The commission plans to host several other meetings similar to this over the next few weeks in order to continue discussions on what qualifies as an essential business and a safe maximum capacity of businesses in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Contact Sarah Mandile at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @sarahmandile.