Mask-wearing causes controversy in Alachua County commission meeting

Mask-wearing causes controversy in Alachua County commission meeting
Published: Jan. 12, 2022 at 10:29 PM EST
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) -As COVID-19 cases spread, people are working to limit the spread of the virus.

“We asked everyone to be masked,” said Alachua County Board Chair, Marihelen Wheeler. She was an official who asked Alachua County Attorney Raemi Eagle-Glenn to wear a mask while in commission chambers.

RELATED STORY: COVID cases on the rise in Alachua County

“And we’re prepared to address whatever happened in terms of expecting our citizens in the boardroom to wear their mask,” added Wheeler.

The response caused Eagle-Glenn and another to leave out of the commission meeting rather than put on a face covering. Eagle-Glenn said the rule is a constitutional violation in more than one way.

“Not only do we have free speech as a fundamental right, but we also have privacy as a fundamental right,” mentioned Eagle-Glenn. She called out Wheeler for how the commissioner described mask-wearing before the commission meeting.

“We are wearing this mask to show that we care for each other and that we’re in this together. So she actually said that wearing a mask in the county commission chambers is a symbol,” said Eagle-Glenn.

RELATED STORY: Alachua County face mask hearing has been denied

“They’re saying that it is an expression of speech so it’s forced speech by a government.” She is considering a civil rights case against the county and would serve as the attorney to represent her friend who also left the meeting. Wheeler said no Florida laws were violated.

“And so we’re doing everything we responsibly can to make sure that our folks are safe and you know, the freedoms of the two people who were in our boardroom,” mentioned Wheeler. “You know, are their rights any more important or stronger than the rights of those of us who came to work there expecting a safe environment?”

Florida law does ban government entities from mandating COVID-19 vaccines but not from mandating masks in their own buildings. Although, SB 592, proposed by State Senator Keith Perry, could prohibit government bodies from requiring face coverings if passed through the legislature.

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