Alachua County now has 53 positive COVID-19 cases, while UF has 20.
At 11 a.m., The Florida Department of Health reported three new Florida resident cases in the county: a 69-year-old female, a 53-year-old male and a 59-year-old female. Later in the evening, the department announced four more Florida resident cases: a 37-year-old female, a 22-year-old male, a 25-year-old male and a 20-year-old female.
UF also confirmed one more case of the virus today — a professional student in the College of Pharmacy living in off-campus housing. Yesterday, the university reported five more cases and its first on-campus case at Weaver Hall.
The number of cases in the state jumped by 378 since last night, according to the department’s dashboard. The total as of this morning is 2,355.
Santa Fe College postpones Spring graduation
Like UF, Santa Fe students will have their Spring graduation postponed. Santa Fe, however, took a different approach to making this decision.
Santa Fe conducted a poll over a 24-hour period on Twitter and Instagram stories, as well as a Qualtrics survey sent by email to the list of 1,781 students who were supposed to graduate this semester, according to a Sunday statement from the college. All of the polls showed the majority of students wanted to wait to walk on stage instead of virtually graduating in April, so that’s what the college is doing.
Santa Fe said its Office of Student Affairs is still exploring possible dates.
A tweet on the college’s Twitter account read that 84 percent of students polled chose the option to have graduation postponed.
Students will have a limit of four tickets to graduation and those who cannot get a ticket can watch the ceremony’s live stream in the Fine Arts Hall or on the college’s graduation webpage the day of the ceremony.
“Regardless of when we celebrate in person, it is hard work and the completion of classes and requirements that earns our students the distinction of being graduates,” the statement read.
County alert confusion
Alachua County residents were confused when they received several emergency COVID-19 public safety alerts today and were unable to access the attached link.
The alert, which was sent to residents at around 4:30 p.m, advised them to “go to the Alachua County Portal at https://acbbo.cc/covid19 for COVID-19 info and answers.” Residents took to social media to express their confusion and fear.
Alachua county emergency alert go to this website.... that makes me feel safe pic.twitter.com/T8VONLWTpl— Tim Boehlein (@timboehlein) March 26, 2020
Alachua County: pushes emergency notification link to all resident cell phones.County website: immediately overwhelmed by site visits, crashes.— anthony_coman (@anthony_coman) March 26, 2020
Less than an hour later, the county apologized on its Facebook page, stating that the alert wasn’t an emergency, but just a notice to residents about its community resource portal. Officials said the city’s website crashed because of the response the city received from the alert.
“Sorry for the confusion. We'll be back up soon. And, we won't repeat this mistake,” they wrote on the Facebook post.
City and county host telephone town hall
City and county officials held a joint telephone town hall, and Spanish-speaking residents were also able to tune in and ask questions.
The hour-long Thursday evening question-and-answer town hall focused on the recent emergency order, COVID-19 testing and economic impacts of the pandemic. Four local officials, as well as the president of the Greater Gainesville Chamber of Commerce, were present at the town hall to answer residents’ questions.
One concerned citizen called in and asked about the potential increase in crime, given that police are not making as many arrests as usual. Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe told the resident that there has been a drop in 911 calls reporting crime and emphasized that the police force is focusing on the “needs of the community” at the moment.
Alachua County Commissioner Robert Hutchinson said the county sheriff’s office has also reported a decrease in arrests due to a drop in crime.
However, Mayor Poe said there has been an increase in domestic and child abuse calls. He encouraged witnesses to report the incidents and the victims to seek help.
A disabled resident expressed her concern about protocol for disability transportation services. Gainesville City Manager Lee Feldman assured her that transportation services are operational and are “properly disinfected.”
Another resident asked about the future of church services. County Commissioner Hutchinson said that all churches should follow guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and eventually move to a social media platform. He said changes may come to current local policies governing churches to minimize spread.
As of 6 p.m., there are 53 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Alachua County, and rates are only increasing, said Paul Myers, a county department of health administrator. The health department is continuing to trace the contacts of the newly infected.
Myers believes cases will increase over the next two weeks and hopes rates plateau afterward.
Mayor Poe announced that testing will expand, also mentioning that those who are looking to get tested do not have to worry about being asked about their legal status. He did not give details on new testing locations.
Poe reiterated that residents need to stay home and quarantine themselves to “flatten the curve” and reduce the rate of infection. Myers agreed, including that there is no problem with hospital bed capacity now, but there can be in the future if rates continue to increase.
“Please work hard to keep all your neighbors safe," Poe said.
Alex DeLuca, Stephany Matat and Grethel Aguila contributed to this report.