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New Alachua County Order Taking Effect , "Safe. Smart. Step-by-step."

Alachua County commissioners released Emergency Order 2020-21 on May 2nd, which features several new amendments clarifying topics such as the use of masks and the requirements for reopening businesses.

Some businesses can start to open after coronavirus closures, however, Alachua County is requiring its residents to wear facial coverings in certain public places.

The end of Florida’s statewide stay-at-home order is in sight and soon, some businesses that have been shuttered for the past month due to the coronavirus pandemic will slowly start to reopen.

The Alachua County Commission has voted in favor of its residents being required to wear masks in public places and its newest order is slated to go into effect on Monday at midnight, the same time as the governor's newest orders for Phase 1 of re-opening the state.

The commission cited Miami-Dade's Emergency Order 20-20. This order states, "Persons working in or visiting grocery stores, restaurants, pharmacies, construction sites, public transit vehicles, vehicles for hire, and locations where social distancing measures are not possible shall wear facial coverings as defined by the CDC."

While many retail doors will open, there are rules and stipulations that must be followed.

The Board of County Commissioners decided to require people to wear some kind of face-covering when they're at an essential business. The only exception to this new requirement is when you're dining in at a restaurant. Though there was much discussion, commissioners ultimately deferred to the governor’s order, which allows indoor dining at restaurants at 25% capacity with social distancing and outdoor dining with tables spaced 6 feet apart.

In addition, the Alachua County order has changed the capacity for retail stores to 1 per 500 square feet. Previously, the county restricted persons to 1 per 750 square feet.

Below is a list of questions and answers, that fully explain phase one of reopening Florida.

When does the phase one executive order begin and how long does it last?

It’ll go into effect on May 4 and remain in place until it’s replaced by a subsequent executive order.

Is the safer-at-home order still in place?

That order was scheduled to expire Friday but has been extended until 12:01 a.m. Monday, which is when the phase one order begins. The new mandate will still require that Floridians limit their movements and whereabouts to the businesses that are open.

Is all of Florida entering phase one?

No, not at this time. Technically Executive Order 20-112 was issued for the whole state but the governor is working with the mayors in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties to ensure they have a stricter protocol in place.

Does the phase one executive order supersede local law?

No. Local government can impose stricter rules if they would like.

When will we enter phase two?

That’s to be determined. It’ll depend on information the governor receives from health authorities. The short answer is that Florida will enter phase two when it’s safe to do so but right now we don’t have a timeline for when that will happen.

Can I go to the doctor for ailments that aren’t related to COVID-19?

Yes, just like you could under the stay-at-home order. The restriction before was that patients couldn’t undergo elective procedures but that restriction will be lifted. The stipulation is that health care providers must maintain adequate hospital bed capacity and personal protective equipment supplies. Hospitals will also be required to assist nursing homes and long-term care facilities in protecting vulnerable patients.

Can senior citizens and those with preexisting conditions leave their homes?

Yes, just keep movements restricted to going to pharmacies, grocery stores, restaurants, and other businesses that are open. Outdoor exercise is also allowed.

Can I visit a loved one in a nursing home or long-term care facilities?

No. The governor believes that restricting visits is still necessary to keep at-risk populations safe.

If I travel to Florida from a COVID-19 hot stop, do I still need to self-isolate?

Yes, plan on a self-quarantine for two weeks upon arriving to the Sunshine State.

I’ve been cooped up and want to take a fun trip. Can I?

Unpack your bag because nonessential travel is still prohibited.

Can I rent an Airbnb or another vacation rental?

No, the moratorium on vacation rentals remains in effect.

Are beaches and parks open?

The governor never closed the beaches but many local governments opted to do so. In Central Florida, many of the beaches remain open but only for limited activity such as exercise. If you want to jog, surf or swim, just verify that location is open before you make the trip out there. Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection will announce a phased-in re-opening of state parks.

What about museums and libraries?

Both will be allowed to open their doors once again, if local governments permit it. They’ll need to not exceed 25% capacity and keep features such as interactive shared exhibits and play areas closed.

Can my business reopen?

It depends on what kind of business you run. Restaurants can operate at 25% dine-in capacity and retailers can also allow customers in with that 25% occupancy stipulation. Just keep in mind that if your business is allowed to open, you need to have appropriate social distancing and sanitation measures in place.

What businesses remain closed?

Gyms, barbershops, nail salons, hair salons, and other salons with close contact services as well as bars and nightclubs.

If my business is one that is closed, can we still provide delivery of product?

Yes. A hair salon owner, for example, could still accept orders via the web or the phone and deliver products to customers. Employees can also continue to work remotely.

For businesses that can open, what are the health guidelines?

Groups of 10 or fewer and six feet of space between parties is a must. Business owners are also asked to keep abreast of CDC recommendations.

Are temperature checks and masks required for employees and customers?

The governor’s newest executive order does not list masks or temperature check requirements. However, some businesses have put protocols in place.

Will businesses that exceed 25% capacity be fined?

Yes, up to $500. Local and state law enforcement agencies will enforce the order and could charge violators with a second-degree misdemeanor.

I want to hang out with my friends and family. Can I?

The governor is still saying no on that unless you’re assisting them with something such as providing them with food or medical care.

Can I walk, run, and exercise outside?

Yes, and you could before as well, just stay six feet away from others.

Can I see my favorite team play?

While sporting venues can open, they aren’t allowed to have spectators, so no.

Will churches and other houses of worship be open?

They were never closed. Those facilities just need to follow social distancing guidelines.

What do I do if I am accused of violating a government order?

The violation of a state or local restriction can lead to fines or even an arrest. If you are accused of violating a government order and are facing charges, call our experienced criminal defense attorneys at (352) 329-3632.