Federal judge denies motion for injunction against Alachua County face mask order

Published: Jun. 3, 2020 at 2:45 PM EDT
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Federal Judge Mark Walker has ruled Alachua County’s face mask order will continue to stand after Wednesday's hearing on a request for an emergency injunction requested by a lawyer representing a group of residents.

Raemi Eagle-Glenn is a Gainesville lawyer who argued the order is a violation of the equal protection law and citizens' right to travel.

"But we have to understand that we can't move a mountain with just one case but we did move the county to accommodate people who cannot wear masks in a much better much reasonable manner," she said.

Eagle-Glen also said it hampers the ability of citizens to get essential services and forces them to have conversations with strangers about their medical history.

Alachua County Senior Assistant Attorney Bob Swain emphasized Covid-19 is a natural disaster and the county is relying on the best science they have to decide on implementing the masking order.

The county did update the order so that people who have trouble breathing are not required to wear face coverings.

"That helps stem the tide of this virus. We're thankful for citizens for doing it and we're thankful for both judges for making it clear that under an emergency we have the authority to issue an order like mandatory facial coverings," Alachua County Spokesman Mark Sexton said.

Swain also added the inconveniences experienced by Eagle-Glen’s clients are based on others’ misunderstandings, not a failure on behalf of the county.

Judge Mark Walker made the decision to leave the order standing, explaining it is in the public’s interest. He recognizes it could have a negative impact on some residents and does not want to minimize the issue the plaintiffs are going through. However, none of the impacts rise to the level of a fundamental right being violated.

According to Eagle-Glen, once she speaks with her clients to figure out what they would like to do next, the suit would process through the legal system at the same pace as a usual case would.

A judge denied a motion for an injunction requested by a plaintiff in a similar case filed in circuit court.

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