As Cases of COVID-19 Surge in Florida, Miami-Dade Beaches will Close for Fourth of July Weekend

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

As Cases of COVID-19 Surge in Florida, Miami-Dade Beaches will Close for Fourth of July Weekend:

Miami Beach to hold emergency meeting to discuss mask usage

  • Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez plans to issue an order Saturday closing all beaches for the Fourth of July weekend, prohibiting large gatherings including parades, and closing parks to fireworks viewing.

  • The Miami Beach City Commission will hold an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss “mask usage and compliance measures.”

  • In a Friday afternoon interview on MSNBC, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said, “Masks have to be mandatory. Second, we have to become really conscientious about physical distancing. There are other things we can do. We can go back to a curfew. We can go back to either reducing capacities, closing down certain areas. The last thing ought to be shuttering the economy but, honestly, if we get to the point where we’re overrunning our health care system that’s not an option.”

As COVID-19 cases surge in Florida, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said he will sign an emergency order on Saturday closing all beaches for the Fourth of July weekend beginning beginning Friday, July 3 and ending on Tuesday, July 7. “The closure may be extended if conditions do not improve and people do not follow New Normal rules requiring masks to be worn always inside commercial establishments and outdoors when social distancing of at least 6 feet is not possible,” Gimenez said in a statement.

“As we continue to see more COVID-19 positive test results among young adults and rising hospitalizations, I have decided that the only prudent thing to do to tamp down this recent uptick is to crack down on recreational activities that put our overall community at higher risk,” he said.

Reiterating the requirement for masks inside public establishments and outside when social distancing of at least six feet is not possible, he said, “I have been seeing too many businesses and people ignoring these lifesaving rules. If people are not going to be responsible and protect themselves and others from this pandemic, then the government is forced to step in and restore common sense to save lives.”

“Following Centers for Disease Control recommendations, my order will also ban any gatherings – including parades – of more than 50 people throughout the County for whatever reason from July 3 to 7. In those situations, masks and social distancing are required and five groups of no more than 10 people will be allowed,” Gimenez said.

“All parks and beaches will be closed to the public in all cities and unincorporated areas of the County to public viewing of fireworks. Fireworks displays must be viewed from one’s home or parked vehicle,” the statement continued.

“The Miami-Dade County Police Department will continue to be out in force this weekend to close establishments that are flaunting the social distancing and masks rules and capacity limits. Violators face a second-degree criminal penalty of up to $500 and 180 days in jail,” Gimenez said.

Late Friday afternoon, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber called an emergency meeting of the City Commission for Monday morning to discuss “mask usage and compliance measures.” On his twitter feed, Gelber wrote, “We were 1 of the first in the U.S. to require masks indoors & in many places outdoors. But it is clear that there has not been terrific compliance with this rule and other measures.”

“Especially as we have commenced our phased reopening of our economy. Given the current surge of #COVID19 cases, we need to see if there are additional tools available for enforcement and compliance,” he wrote in a follow up tweet.  

Earlier in the week, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez announced a mandatory mask rule for everyone in the City except those engaged in rigorous exercise. Hialeah, Miami Gardens and Aventura said they would make masks mandatory as well.

At a Miami Beach Commission meeting on Wednesday, City Manager Jimmy Morales said the resurgence of the virus can be seen in both the latest hospital numbers and City Hall. He said 38 employees have tested positive with 26 of those cases diagnosed in the last two and half weeks. As a result, 204 employees – those testing positive and those that have been exposed to them – have been impacted.

“We had returned to City Hall at least from a staff perspective on June 8,” he said. “In response to all of this, last week we decided to go back to at least through the end of June working remotely.”

At this point, Morales said, there will be no further re-openings. “We don’t want to go backwards,” he said. “We don’t want to have to reclose things so how do we sort of flatten that curve again.”

Morales said the City is transitioning from educating businesses on the new normal rules “to now a posture… of enforcing.” On Monday, he announced the COVID-19 emergency measures have been amended to include a new provision for a 24-hour closure of businesses failing to comply with the City and County’s emergency orders. To reopen, a business must attest that it is complying with the orders.

“Hospitals continue to say they have capacity,” Morales said on Wednesday though he noted “The numbers clearly are increasing so we’re going to be very cautious.”

The next day, the number of positive coronavirus cases in Florida set a new record of nearly 9,000, “eclipsing the record of 5,508 cases two days ago,” according to WLRN.

Gelber told Commissioners he has asked the State Department of Health for trendlines beyond just zip codes to understand where issues may be arising such as “entertainment areas, houses of worship” or “certain food stores.”  

“We sheltered in place as sort of a bulk, almost prophylactic, response to the initial wave, very brutal, very painful – very effective I might add but had a lot of economic side effects that were devastating,” Gelber said. “Now we’re trying to, in a more laser-like way, figure out where the problems are coming from.”

“I’ve made that request repeatedly because I’d like them to give us more specific information because one thing I don’t want to do is at some point if this thing keeps happening for a week or two, there’s going to be a need to take a more dramatic action and I’d much rather – I think we’d all much rather – take the least severe actions possible to address the problems sufficiently,” he said.

Morales added, “Miami Beach is not considered a hotspot right now in terms of cases.” Widespread testing at the Convention Center has helped, he said, with residents and the local workforce that interacts with residents being tested. The City announced this week that the number of available COVID-19 tests at the Convention Center testing site has increased from 750 a day to 1,000. The site also provides antibody testing.

Though not a hotspot, Morales said, “There’s no desire to go backwards. That would probably be a death knell for a lot of businesses, but we do need to message and enforce and make sure that we don’t keep going in the wrong direction.”

Commissioner Steven Meiner said, “To me the bar is very high, very high to start closing down again so I’m not looking at that. I’m looking at messaging and enforcement.”

Mayor on MSNBC
Friday, following the surprising announcement of the surge in Florida cases, Gelber appeared on MSNBC. In response to a question on how to get the situation under control, he said, “Masks have to be mandatory. Second, we have to become really conscientious about physical distancing. There are other things we can do. We can go back to a curfew. We can go back to either reducing capacities, closing down certain areas. The last thing ought to be shuttering the economy but, honestly, if we get to the point where we’re overrunning our health care system that’s not an option.”

Addressing the enhanced enforcement and the closing of some restaurants for 24 hours for not following the rules, he said, “It’s the worst thing to do that because these are places that really were shellacked by this COVID close-down initially, so we don’t really want to do that but we have to because, I guess, between lives and livelihoods, that you’ve got to go with lives but you’ve obviously got to be cognizant of the fact you have an economy here that’s got to come out of this somehow and it’s going to be very hard. We’re going to need help. I think everybody’s going to need help.”

Apple Lincoln Road Store recloses after the company announced plans to close stores in areas where the virus is surging. The Lincoln Road store reopened shortly after non-essential retail was allowed to begin operating again at the end of May. Staff members took temperatures of customers before allowing them to enter the store. Masks were required and capacity was limited. However, after increasing numbers of positive cases in states like Florida, the company opted to reclose some of its stores including the one on Lincoln Road.

The local website says the store is "open for pickup of existing online orders and previously scheduled in-store Genius Support appointments through Sunday, June 28. We look forward to resuming full operations in the future."

Note: The Lincoln Road store closed for a few days at the beginning of the protests over the killing of George Floyd during an arrest by Minneapolis Police after looting occured in some areas. At the time, the store was boarded up. Photos accompanying articles about the coronavirus shutdown which show the store boarded up are from the time of the protests. The store was not boarded up during the coronavirus closure and is not boarded up now.


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