Coronavirus: Alachua County's shelter-in-place order there does not bar visitors

  • Alachua County Commission enacted a shelter-in-place order on Monday.
    Alachua County Commission enacted a shelter-in-place order on Monday.

Commuters who trek from Lake City to Gainesville every morning and those with family in the university town probably know by now that all of Alachua County is under a shelter-in-place order. But for the most part, individuals are still free to go about their business there. 

The order, enacted Monday by the Alachua County Commission, prohibits gatherings of any size outside the home. However, it carves out a wide-ranging list of exceptions to the rule. 

Individuals may only venture outside for “essential activities,” the order states. “Essential” is broadly defined to include most reasons someone would be out and about. 

People may still go to work if their job is related to an essential business or government service. 

Media outlets, hospitals, grocery stores and gas stations all provide essential services, according to the order. Same goes for hotels, utility providers such as Cox or Verizon, warehouses, distribution centers, waste management businesses, veterinarians, laundromats, auto shops, funeral homes, firms that do work for the government, hardware stores, financial institutions, manufacturing facilities and several other examples. 

Additionally, businesses that provide administrative support to a company engaged in an essential service are themselves considered essential. 

Businesses with five or fewer employees, including management, are allowed to stay open provided workers do not come in regular contact with the general public. 

Non-essential businesses must close, the order states. That includes recreation-based businesses such as bowling alleys or movie theaters.

Many businesses in Gainesville that would fall into that category have long since shut their doors. 

The only major theater brand in Gainesville, Regal Cinema, already shut down its locations nationwide. Bars and nightclubs were shuttered by order of the governor on Saint Patrick’s Day. 

Businesses deemed non-essential may file an appeal asking officials to reconsider. 

Activities related to the health and safety of a household, including pets, are still allowed. That includes — but is not limited to — doctor visits and trips to the pharmacy. 

Individuals can also go outside to seek necessary supplies and services — picking up toiletries, groceries or a new car battery, for example. Anything needed “to maintain the safety, sanitation and essential operation of residences” — toiletries, groceries or a new car battery, for example — would fall into that category.

Outdoor leisure activities such as hiking and biking are still allowed, so long as people practice social distancing and follow all other precautions advised by the Centers for Disease Control. Playgrounds, however, are closed.

Columbia County Commissioners enacted an emergency order Monday, but it was far more narrow than what Alachua County put in place.

The Columbia County order shuts down all parks, recreation areas and community centers in the county and gives law enforcement additional powers to enforce that rule — by arresting the violator, if necessary. 

Additionally, it banned the operation of all “gaming parlors,” commonly referred to as internet cafes or adult arcades, in the county.