Alachua County Commission votes against registration for large gatherings

Published: Sep. 8, 2020 at 4:44 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - Alachua County residents will not be required to register gatherings of ten or more people at their homes.

County Commissioners voted 3-2, with Commissioners Hutch Hutchinson and Marihelen Wheeler in dissent, to not include a gathering registration process in their emergency order. The idea was aiming to prevent the spread of COVID-19 during house parties especially among college students.

Some commissioners did not agree with the registration idea saying it would be an overreach by local government and negatively affect residents living in large family households - difficulties with enforcing the registration requirement also came up during Tuesday’s meeting.

“It will be widely ignored and it’s always bad for government to put itself in the position of passing and supporting and defending laws that are widely ridiculed and ignored,” District 1 Commissioner Mike Byerly said.

Meanwhile, Commission Chair Hutch Hutchinson argued the gathering registration would help the health department in contract tracing - in case someone who attended contracted the virus. The Alachua County Commission has been working closely with UF and Santa Fe College to find ways to discourage students from gathering in large groups.

“This is something they specifically asked us to do. Without it, their hands are tied and we’ll just see the cases go like they did everywhere else that’s having to close their campuses down," Hutchinson said.

According to Alachua County Health Department administrator, Paul Myers, the number of new cases has been going up in the county over the past several days.

Commissioners also voted for Commission Chair Hutch Hutchinson to bring back an explanation of what would be “an enforceable citation for unsafe gatherings”.

You can see the county numbers and University of Florida’s latest COVID-19 numbers HERE.

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