Gov. DeSantis signed an executive order invalidating local emergency COVID-19 orders requiring masks and social distancing around the state, but Alachua County will not be affected by the change.
Metro | City and County Commission
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.
Judge Stephan P. Mickle will now be known not only as a trailblazer for Black students at UF, but as the namesake for the Alachua County Courthouse.
Residents who have received both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, can visit unvaccinated residents in private without wearing masks or socially distancing.
Johnson and Duncan-Walker, whose swearing-in ceremonies have not yet been planned, have continually fought against the construction of luxury student housing in the city’s historically Black neighborhoods.
In the tight race that some East Gainesville residents followed closely, Desmon Duncan-Walker replaced incumbent Gigi Simmons, who was elected in 2018, for the District 1 seat by just 119 ballots.
Gainesville residents will vote on two city commission seats Tuesday: District 1 and At-Large Seat B. Development in East Gainesville and public health concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic are hot-button issues in the election.
Gigi Simmons faces Desmon Duncan-Walker in the March 16 municipal election to represent District 1, which encompasses most of East and downtown Gainesville. Some of the major issues currently facing the district are economic development, food insecurity and COVID-19 relief.
Residents and city leaders alike have expressed frustrations with Florida politicians and UF’s response to the pandemic. After UF reopened in the Fall, COVID-19 cases climbed and the university’s decision to return to in-person classes brought protests. But some residents agree Gainesville was better off than many other cities over the past year.
The city passed a similar ban last month, which raised concerns about the homeless population among experts and community members.
The Alachua County Supervisor of Elections sent an email Wednesday reminding voters of polling place changes for the election on March 16.
Voters can go in person to vote early from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at four locations: the Supervisor of Elections Office, the Millhopper Branch Library, the Reitz Union and the Martin Luther King Jr. Multipurpose Center.
Commissioner Gail Johnson, policy experts and community activists proposed a plan for the city to look into creating a community grocery store in East Gainesville, where several neighborhoods qualify as food deserts. The commission unanimously passed the plan.
Gainesville City Commissioner and MTPO Chair David Arreola exchanged excited glances with the other commissioners in the room upon hearing this news. Gaining jurisdictional control over the taste road has been a priority of Gainesville's for the past month.
On Jan. 4, the commission approved the drafting of an emergency order to enforce mask-wearing inside businesses. The order would have required patrons to stay seated while eating and drinking in bars and clubs, similar to a Hillsborough County order from December.
Commissioners believe there are a number of immediate changes that can be made to stretches of the state highway inside the city, such as lowering the speed limit, equipping sidewalks with better lighting and increasing traffic enforcement. In order to move forward with some of these changes, the commission is wrestling for control over the road with the Florida Department of Transportation.
If residents successfully secede, Springs would form the first new Florida county in almost 100 years. The last time it happened was in 1925, when Gilchrist County split from Alachua.
Students at The Agency, UF’s student-led marketing firm, paired up with the city to launch a marketing campaign aimed to encourage students to wear masks in public inside bars during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Healthy Gainesville Initiative was presented to and approved by the City Commission Jan. 21 and cost the city $87,500.
The city commission voted 3-3 against the proposal at a Feb. 11 meeting, halting the “Free the Nipple" movement in Gainesville but passing a plan to begin drafting language changes to de-gender city codes.
The Alachua County Commission voted unanimously at a meeting Tuesday to accept the rent relief funds, which will help county residents who have been financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic or are at risk of homelessness.