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DeLand city officials will once again allow special events on public property, but only if the organizers adhere to strict COVID-19 prevention rules.

If an event fails to follow the standards, it could be shut down while in progress. The city could also refuse to issue special-event permits to the organizers in the future.

  • Vendors must be spaced 12 feet apart.

  • Hand-washing/sanitizing stations must be placed throughout an event’s footprint.

  • Temperature checks are required for staff, volunteers and vendors.

  • Disposable masks must be made available at no charge for those who don’t have them.

  • Organizers must submit COVID-19 safety plans to city officials.

  • Organizers must require the wearing of face masks.

  • Organizers must designate a person city officials can contact if an event doesn’t live up to safety standards.

  • Organizers must submit event-permit applications no later than 30 days before the event, to give time for city officials to give feedback on the proposed COVID-19 safety plan.

  • Attendance at such events must also be limited, based on the scope of the event and the venue where it’s being held. Organizers must station people at all entrances and exits to count attendees and assure that the limit isn’t exceeded.

  • Volunteers must monitor lines for food and restroom usage to ensure that people stay 6 feet apart from one another.

  • Food vendors must be spaced out to allow for socially distanced lines. Food vendors must remove bulk condiments and replace them with single-serve ones. When possible, plated meals or boxed prepared food is preferred. 

The new rules were passed on a 4-1 vote at the Oct. 5 meeting of the DeLand City Commission. Commissioner Jessica Davis, who was hospitalized with COVID-19 earlier this year, voted no.

Among the long list of rules, event organizers will have to submit a COVID-19 safety plan, and appoint a person the city can contact during the event if the plan isn’t being followed.

“You have to do this with the understanding that there is not going to be 100-percent compliance,” City Manager Michael Pleus said. “The event contact is going to be critical.”

Pleus said according to “the letter of the law,” the city probably should have shut down the past two DeLand High School football games played at the city’s Spec Martin Memorial Stadium.

Pleus said only 1,500 people are allowed to attend, compared to the stadium’s normal capacity of 6,000. At the games, he acknowledged, compliance with mask-wearing and social distancing wasn’t perfect — something he contacted Bulldog officials about. 

“I guarantee that if I shut down one of those games, you wouldn’t hear the end of it,” Pleus said. “It puts staff in an awkward position.”

Mayor Bob Apgar had advocated for giving staff the ability to waive the mask mandate in certain circumstances, such as when social distancing is possible, but other commissioners argued that would also put city staff in the awkward position of making such decisions on individual events.

The only exceptions to mask-wearing under the new special-event guidelines are the ones spelled out in the ordinance the city passed in July regarding masks, such as health reasons. 

When Gov. Ron DeSantis moved Florida into Phase 3 of its reopening plan Sept. 25, his order took away the ability of the city to collect fines for those not wearing masks; however, the DeLand mask law is still in effect. 

The city never collected any fines under its ordinance, anyway. 

Davis explained why she voted against allowing events. 

“Families are getting COVID even when they have small events,” Davis said. “You can’t see it, you can’t predict it, and I just don’t think we’re in the clear to have big events.”


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