County Commissioners eye stricter enforcement of masks, social distancing after FSU’s home game

Published: Sep. 15, 2020 at 6:13 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Leon County Commissioners unanimously voted at Tuesday’s meeting for staff to bring back options for enforcement related to mask wearing, social distancing, and large crowds.

Commissioner Bill Proctor began the conversation by asking whether the County would be allowed to require masks in outdoor places in addition to indoor ones, such as at FSU football games.

Chastity O’Steen, the County Attorney, replied that it depends on various factors, including whether the property is public or private.

“We need to make a statement,” said Commissioner Mary Ann Lindley. “This is not acceptable. I was outraged by that.”

Commissioner Dozier also chimed in.

“I had a hard time watching the football game. I was so elated that football was back; then it would shift to an image of the crowd, and it was really troubling,” she said.

Commissioner Dozier also brought up public input on the mask mandate. She says she has received a number of e-mails against the mandate, voicing concerns that it is hurting the local economy. She also says that number is dwarfed by what she’s heard from people in favor of the mandate; she argued part of the issue is a lack of enforcement.

“There are so many people who won’t go to a football game or a business because they don’t feel safe, that it is depressing our economy,” said Dozier.

The County Attorney emphasized that the mask ordinance was originally purposely written narrowly, but agreed to take a look at other options.

Dozier and other commissioners also brought up concerns about large apartment parties.

“If we don’t get ahead of the enforcement issue now... it’s been six months and we keep chasing our tail,” said Dozier.

“We as constitutional officers are tasked with health, safety, and welfare,” said Commissioner Proctor.

Commission Chair Bryan Desloge agreed, saying he had attended Saturday’s game with others, all of whom agreed to wear masks.

“I think most of us would agree, what we see going on right now is not what we want to see going forward,” said Desloge. “I mean it’s a crazy time and whose got responsibility and where the lines are drawn, it gets confusing for a lot of us.”

Proctor called on Desloge to meet with other community leaders; Desloge agreed to reach out to universities.

Commissioners also discussed Leon County’s ongoing mask mandate during Tuesday’s meeting; all who spoke were in agreement about the need for the mandate.

“Health and wellness aren’t always convenient,” said Commissioner Jimbo Jackson.

Jackson is the principal at Fort Braden, which has lost two current and one former employee to COVID-19.

He asked the community to remember those who have died due to COVID as people, not just statistics.

Commissioners agreed that there is no “magic number” or statistic that will result in the rescinding of the order; rather, Claudia Blackburn with the Health Department suggests waiting for CDC guidance.

“There are no clear metrics at this point; I would say let’s wait for guidance,” said Blackburn.

Blackburn and County Administrator Vince Long also provided Commissioners with a COVID-19 update.

Long said the County has seen an increase in the number of cases during the last few weeks, due to multiple factors, including the reopening of the state, students returning to the area, the Labor Day holiday, and an increase in testing.

Since the July 14th update to Commissioners, Leon County has doubled its testing numbers, testing about 1,000 people per day. The County also continues to have adequate hospital bed space.

Blackburn’s update focused on Week 37, from September 6-12. She said the percent positivity rate for that week and the previous week is about 13.8%.

Blackburn says Leon County is exceeding the goal of testing 2% of the population; so far in September, about 6% of the population has been tested. Blackburn says about 30% of the total population has been tested since the beginning of the pandemic.

According to Blackburn’s update, most of the recent cases have been in the 18 to 24 age range, accounting for 76% of cases in the last couple of weeks. Leon County is also seeing a slight increase in the 25-54 age range.

During the update, Commissioner Jackson brought up concerns about the 32304 and 32310 zip codes; he said one in every three people being tested is in one of those two zip codes.

“That’s an area that I represent, that I love, and that I want to keep safe and well.”

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