Q & A with the candidates

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Posted August 20, 2021 |

Editor’s Note: Leading up to the city election, we’ll be asking candidates to weigh in once a week on a question about city government. The candidates are given
almost a week to respond to the question in writing and we do not edit their answers.

Should city leadership consider the capacity of the local hospitals and health care workers when deciding whether or not to implement a public health

These candidates did not answer the question: Alex Everts, Brent Malever, Gregory Steen, Jay Musleh, Kevin Lopez, Lori Martin Gregory, Rusty Juergens.

As a healthcare professional, my answer is Yes. City leadership should make decisions based on the most relevant, accurate, and factual information. The greatest risk to our community from COVID-19 is our healthcare infrastructure becoming overwhelmed and collapsing under a wave of hospitalizations. It is critical that our leadership do everything in their power to protect us and that includes aggressively pursuing scientifically backed options within the power of the City Council and The Mayor.

At the very least, recommending vaccinations or weekly negative COVID test results for all city employees as well as mandating that all city employees and contractors wear masks is the simplest and most powerful tool in our governments arsenal to stop the spread and protect all of us.

To me, there is no acceptable threshold for the number of people in our community that we lose. Part of the job of the mayor is to use the platform of the Office of the Mayor to lead, and the mayor can create a culture of depoliticizing masks and encourage simple preventative measures to save every possible person we can from contracting COVID, or worse dying of COVID.

Our beliefs determine our behaviour which determine our results – and the mayor has the platform to help influence citizens to positively understand the value of masks and vaccines.  As mayor, the people of Ocala can count on me, to lead with compassion, to act proactively and assertively to protect and serve, and most importantly to deliver results for our city.


Barbara Fitos:

Capacity issues at our local hospitals is a key measurement factor in implementing any public health mandate/ordinance as hospitalizations measure rates of severe infection and thus spread of viruses such as Covid 19. City leadership must be able to rely on timely, accurate data in making such critical determinations. One needs but cite the letter signed by over six hundred healthcare professionals at the height of the Covid 19 outbreak in our community in 2020 as evidence of the strain put on our front-line healthcare professionals – in addition to the entire hospital staffs of maintenance, janitorial, etc. And it effects all aspects of critical care for those illnesses and conditions not related to the Covid 19 outbreak and the current upticks in infections post availability of vaccines. These capacity issues drive public health policy for the safety and well being of all our citizens including those front-line hospital and healthcare workers. And finally, in no way should any public health mandate or discussion or consideration of same become political nor should opinions on either side of the mandate issue be demonized. We are community and the health, safety and well being of all recognizing that with freedom and individual rights come responsibility.


Kent Guinn:

The reason for the consideration of the mandate exists whether there are 2 or 2,000 hospital beds. With that said under our Charter the Mayor doesn’t have the authority to issue a mandate. The City council would do it just as they did it in 2020.




Jim Hilty Sr.:

It is imperative that the City of Ocala leadership consider the capacity of local hospitals and consult with the County Health Department before enacting any mandates or recommendations regarding any public health interventions. This should be a coordinated team effort that truly benefits the health and well being of the public.



Curtis Jones:

Yes to your question. In this new normal, the covid virus has changed the landscape for adequate heath care. I think leadership should direct traffic so that our 1st responders don’t get overwhelmed or discouraged. We must try to follow CDC mandates for safety and security.



Kevin Lopez:

Yes, leadership should consider hospital capacity in the decision to do a public health mandate, that is always a factor in public health but it is not the only factor. I am not a medical professional and realize that we should listen to the guidance from our local healthcare providers with their recommendations. I do disagree with enforcing a public health mandate only at the city government level, that falls into the role of our State Department of Health to weigh the factors with experts in the medical field. However, I would not stop a local private business from enforcing a policy if they choose to do so, they have the right to refuse business for not following their health and safety policies.


Jay Musleh:

Local mask Mandates are unenforceable per the Governor’s recent executive order. I have also been on record as opposing mask mandates in general. If conditions worsened and the Governor made such an order then I would be in favor. If not then my position would be to continue to urge our citizens to mask up and practice social  distancing and not adopt a local mandate.

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