Miami Beach officials are monitoring the rapidly evolving coronavirus situation while taking all necessary precautions for what we know now. In the meantime, a meeting will take place on Monday with hotel managers to discuss “preparedness and response,” according to City Manager Jimmy Morales.
Assistant City Manager Alina Tejeda Hudak is the point person for the City on coronavirus (COVID-19) working with the various Federal, State, and County agencies responsible for handling it. Hudak, who joined the City last month, led Miami-Dade County’s response to the Zika emergency.
In an email response to a resident’s questions about the City’s preparedness, Morales wrote, “Our Dept. of Emergency Management is producing a Situation Report twice a week, and we have an internal staff group that has a daily call.”
The City is working with the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau (GMCVB), the Greater Miami and the Beaches Hotel Association (GMBHA), and management at the Miami Beach Convention Center regarding the situation and, Morales said, the City will host a meeting on Monday with the general managers of Miami Beach hotels “to talk about COVID-19 preparedness and response.”
In addition, he wrote in the email, “We have been in communication with Mt. Sinai leadership, and our Fire Rescue is working closely with them on appropriate protocols. Sadly, there is very little information forthcoming at this point from the applicable federal, state or local authorities. But I can assure you that we are monitoring this closely and will communicate more information when available.”
Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber sent an email Friday with a similar message, assuring residents, “Our City is doing everything that health care professionals have suggested. We are reaching out to the entire community, especially to vulnerable populations like seniors, with directions and assistance in counter measures (hand washing stations, readily available hand sanitizers, urging less physical contact, cleaning of surfaces, PSA announcements, etc.). We are also organizing our hospitality industry so that it has the awareness and tools necessary to minimize risks among our visitors. Our paramedics are also trained and ready to respond to issues, and we have organized our local hospitals.”
But, he also acknowledged, “It is a far trickier question when it comes to what extent should municipalities be actively cancelling events and gatherings.” He noted that emergency management authorities at the County, State and Federal levels “have not advised us to do this, nor directed us to.” While some cities have taken their own measures including the City of Miami’s cancellation of Ultra, Gelber pointed out that Ultra is “an international music festival where thousands come here from all over the world including from nations with already documented high incidents of the virus.”
“Some groups scheduled to meet here have cancelled their own events – usually based on the challenges they are facing with international travel, exhibitor and organizer availability and related issues,” Gelber said. Gelber's message was released earlier in the day, prior to the Florida Health Department's reporting two patients in Broward County are presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 and have been isolated. Two others – one in Lee County and one in Santa Rosa County – have died. Lee County is in southwest Florida on the Gulf Coast. Santa Rosa is in the northwest in the Panhandle.
On Friday, eMerge Americas announced it would postpone its annual event scheduled for the end of this month at the Miami Beach Convention Center until November. That follows an announcement from Zendesk that it was cancelling its three-day conference scheduled for last week, also at the Convention Center.
“At this point, while we are closely monitoring the situation and in constant communication with local and federal health care and emergency management officials, our City is not prohibiting community events nor affirmatively cancelling gatherings,” Gelber wrote. “It would be difficult to go down that road in the absence of informed advice from professionals. Do we cancel all arena events where large groups of people gather like NBA basketball games or every concert at the Arsht or Fillmore? What about movie theaters and public schools? Do we close down hotels and restaurants, all of which receive tens of thousands of visitors daily? Our decision making must be grounded in health care and emergency management expertise. Panic should not be part of our playbook.”
While saying the City “will take every counter measure that health care professionals and emergency management personnel advise,” Gelber concluded, “We need to be smart and careful and prepared, and counsel vigilance within our community.”
With a large Spring Break crowd in town, the City said it will have hand washing and hand sanitation stations at its beachfront Spring Break activation area between 7th and 10th Streets.
Other precautions include more frequent cleaning of the City’s trolleys and equipping them with hand sanitizing gel or wipes.
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