Miami Beach Police Chief Rick Clements sent an email to his department Saturday night informing them an officer was diagnosed with the coronavirus (COVID-19). RE:MiamiBeach has confirmed the officer worked the Entertainment and South District during Spring Break, the location of the heaviest crowds.
In his email, first reported by the Sun-Sentinel, Clements said the unidentified officer was informed of the diagnosis Saturday. The officer is now home “while this virus takes its course.”
“I spoke with the officer and they seem to be in good spirits” despite a cough, Clements wrote. “I assured the officer that we will be here for them throughout the duration of their time at home and assist them in whatever way we can.”
“In addition to this officer, and out of an abundance of caution, we have identified additional officers that may have been in contact with the officer just before the onset of the symptoms,” the email states [emphasis is Clements’]. “We have made arrangements for these officers to be evaluated, and monitored, over the next few days. Rest assured, this is being done for the health and well-being of these officers and the entire department. This will be an uphill battle during the next few weeks but we will get through this together.”
Local FOP President Kevin Millan said if anyone was doubting the efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus, “I’m sure that person is one hundred percent convinced of how important everything we’re doing now is and how much of an emergency this is… It just got real for a lot of people.” Millan confirmed the officer worked the Entertainment and South District during Spring Break.
In addition to practicing social distancing, roll calls are no longer happening at the station, and temperatures are being checked, he said.
“I have spoken to other departments and union leaders regarding their measures as well,” Millan said. “Temperatures and social distancing seem to be the norm right now.”
On March 15, in response to heavy crowds of Spring Breakers not heeding warnings about the spread of the virus, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber and Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis jointly announced partial beach closures in the two spring break meccas. For Miami Beach, the closure area covered 5th to 15th Streets.
At the time, Gelber said he was concerned about the City’s first responders who had been out among the crowds. “We cannot afford to lose public safety first responders to the coronavirus. It’s not only dangerous to them but just imagine the cascading impact when a couple of firehouses are offline, a couple whole [police] squads are offline… we have to be very aware of that public safety threat.” He said he hoped the new measures would reduce the crowds in the Entertainment District as well as the health threat to first responders and others.
Millan shared his concerns following that first announcement. “We don’t know who has it, who doesn’t have it, who’s been exposed to it,” he said. While everyone is following the recommendations of the CDC for social distancing, he said, “That’s not what’s happening with the police department and that’s not happening with this crowd so I’m very concerned that my officers are being put at a much greater risk due to the type of policing we’re having to do right now and that’s just dealing with Spring Break. We haven’t gotten a handle on Spring Break… We really can’t focus on the coronavirus until we deal with Spring Break.
“I wish they would have done it earlier, days earlier,” he said. “We’re willing to try anything that will alleviate the workload and the risks of my officers but I really think that we really need to sit down and think about a long-range plan for Spring Break and for the next year.
The Spring Break crowds continued to gather in other areas of the beach and on beaches throughout the State as the number of people diagnosed grew exponentially. (The photo above is Miami Beach, north of 15th Street, on March 18.) The images of the crowds, either oblivious to or outright defying the warnings, made international news.
On March 19, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez made the call to close all beaches in the County.
Photo courtesy John Deutzman
MBPD Officer Diagnosed with COVID-19 Worked Heaviest Spring Break Area:
Other officers being monitored
The impact of the coronavirus
The emergency orders summarized