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Alachua County mask mandate unlikely after new CDC guidance

Published: Jul. 27, 2021 at 11:30 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - North Central Florida leaders reacted Tuesday’s latest change from the US Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on indoor masking and one Alachua County Commissioner Ken Cornell said he’s not ready to make masks mandatory again.

The CDC now advises community leaders to encourage masking indoors, whether you are fully vaccinated or not, in high transmission areas as the Delta variant continues to spread. While at an event addressing health disparities, Commissioner Ken Cornell explained what’s next for the county, but one attorney said mandates are out of the question.

Related story: CDC changes course on indoor masks in some parts of the US

“I think that the CDC maybe needs to slow down and wait a little bit before it makes some of these moves,” Attorney Jeff Childers said.

Moves from the CDC included not only reversing the indoor mask policy but also encouraging indoor masking for all schools.

Cornell said making masks mandatory again is not on his list but encourages vaccination, just like the CDC.

“I’m not ready to go to a mask mandate,” Cornell said. “What I’m ready to encourage is folks that haven’t been vaccinated, get vaccinated.”

In spring 2020 when the pandemic began raising concern, Alachua County made masks mandatory but things would be different this time around.

“The county commission will be meeting next week to look at the latest data, follow the science,” Cornell said. “We’ve been following the recommendations of the University of Florida. Unfortunately with regards to masks mandates the legislature has taken away a lot of our powers.”

Attorney Childers won a lawsuit against the county’s mandate, as the first district court of appeals ruled it unconstitutional in more than 30 counties in Florida.

Related story: A state court of appeal overturns Alachua County’s facemask order

“The court ruled in May of this year, so a year later, that mask mandates are presumptively unconstitutional,” Childers said. “That ruling came after the state of emergency ended in Alachua County.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis also approved SB 2006 in may of this year where he can step in to invalidate a local governments emergency order if it restricts an individuals rights or liberties.

“We don’t have the same ability to do the things that we do that we had at the beginning of the pandemic,” Cornell added.

The Delta variant represents 83% of COVID-19 cases, according to the CDC. They also said vaccinated people can still get breakthrough infections of the delta variant and may be contagious, but it still prevents hospitalization and death.

The commission will meet to discuss how to move forward after this new recommendation next Monday.

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