Miami Beach Closes Some Beaches and Institutes Curfew in Entertainment District to Limit Spring Break Crowds Amidst Coronavirus Pandemic

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

Miami Beach Closes Some Beaches and Institutes Curfew in Entertainment District to Limit Spring Break Crowds Amidst Coronavirus Pandemic:

Early closures mandated for businesses citywide

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber and Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis joined together Sunday to announce measures for limiting Spring Break crowds in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The confluence of a young, Spring Break crowd that feels invincible and a pandemic that is beginning to be felt here led the mayors to close beaches and require businesses to close early. 

In Miami Beach, public beaches from 5th to 15th Streets will be closed until further notice and a curfew from 11 pm to 5 am will be instituted in the Entertainment District (MXE) beginning Monday, March 16. 

Also, non-essential businesses citywide will be required to close daily by 10 pm until further notice. Excluded businesses include: pharmacies, grocery stores, convenience stores, private offices, banks, hotels, hospitals, medical service providers, medical supply stores, hardware stores, gas stations and automotive supply/repair centers.

The previous capacity limitation of less than 250 remains in effect but the City is urging restaurants, bars and nightclubs to decrease their capacity by 50 percent to create social distancing. 

City-owned parking garages and surface lots citywide will only be open to residents and access card holders.

The emergency powers extended to City Manager Jimmy Morales to enforce the restrictions expire on March 19 but the City Commission is expected to extend those at its meeting on Wednesday.

At Sunday’s press conference Morales said he expected the restrictions to remain in effect “as long as we’re under threat of this coronavirus… the goal is we’re only closing for a few weeks, not several months.”

In announcing the measures, Gelber said, “We typically want everybody to come here and not practice social distancing but that would be business as usual and clearly if there’s one thing that’s happening right now, it can’t be business as usual anymore.” 

He noted the “permanent Spring Break” status of many students during the coronavirus shutdown as well as local high school students who are out of school. “This is a very, very dangerous confluence,” Gelber said. “We cannot become a petri dish for a very dangerous virus.”

On a visit to Ocean Drive this weekend, Gelber said, “What I saw was incredibly disturbing… young people who believe they’re invincible who probably don’t think of this in any way as a health crisis.”

“The reason we did this was to send a message out,” Gelber said. “Spring Break is over but, more importantly, you’ve got to start treating this virus as something where you’ve got to listen to what people are telling you to do. You can’t just act like it doesn’t exist. You can’t be uncaring about who else might catch it. You’ve got to realize that we’re all in this together and you’ve got to act that way.”

“To the hospitality industry,” he said, “we are really concerned about our businesses and our workers because these are people that have been invested in our city. They have made our city part of who they are. But at the end of the day we can’t simply elevate those concerns over the public health concerns… It’s an emergency situation. It’s a pandemic and we’ve got to act that way.”

Gelber said he was also concerned about the City’s first responders who have been out amongst 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.

Local FOP President Kevin Millan shares those concerns. “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.


Photo: Spring Break 2019, courtesy Miami Beach Police Department

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