At their Sept. 29 meeting, the Leon County Commissioners voted 5-2 to maintain Phase 2 of Leon County’s reopening plan and allow fall youth sports. Commissioners Mary Ann Lindley and Bill Proctor dissented. The vote comes after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed an executive order pushing the state into Phase 3 last Friday.
The Commissioners voted to allow fall youth sports and use of playgrounds in Leon County with precautions. They will require leagues to submit COVID-19 mitigation plans and enter into agreements with the County.
The Commissioners also upheld the Leon County mask mandate. However, County Attorney Chasity O’Steen confirmed that, due to the executive order, individuals in Leon County cannot be fined for mask violations.
County Administrator Vincent Long said that Leon County has not issued any fines since the mask mandate went into effect in June.
Long noted that though Leon County’s COVID-19 numbers have gone down from a surge in early September, cases are still as high as they were in August.
“That downward trend is coming off of a peak,” he said. “We are still where we were or above where we were when we put in place our strongest mitigation efforts.”
After Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed an executive order lifting COVID-19 business restrictions on Friday, Leon County’s COVID-19 regulations are unclear. The Leon County Commissioners had planned to explore options for tightening COVID-19 restrictions at their upcoming meeting on Sept. 29.
At their last meeting, the Commissioners blasted fans who attended Florida State University’s football season opener and did not comply with mask or social distancing requirements. The Commissioners also expressed concerns about other large gatherings like pool parties.
They directed staff to bring back a report on COVID-19 mitigation measures and explore the possibility of extending the mask mandate to cover more circumstances.
Now that the state has moved into Phase 3, it is unclear if the County will be able to uphold its existing mask mandate. Under the executive order, local governments can impose COVID-19 regulations, but they cannot close businesses or fine individuals for violating mask orders.
However, according to Florida Politics, a county government may be able to force businesses to require masks. The language of the governor’s order prevents local governments from fining individuals but does not stop them from fining businesses.
Jon Van Arnam, Deputy County Administrator in Palm Beach, said in an email that Palm Beach has not yet fined any individuals but has focused on business compliance. Van Arnam said Palm Beach can still enforce on businesses in Phase 3.
Under the order, the County still has the power to limit the capacity of businesses, but it will need a clear justification for doing so. Local businesses can also still choose to require masks on their premises.