Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales provided Commissioners more details on Friday regarding his thoughts on how to reopen the City following the COVID-19 closures. He emphasized the plan depends on orders from Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez on when and how he envisions the reopening. “We cannot open before the County,” Morales said. “We must wait for them to act.”
During the meeting which was held virtually via Zoom, Commissioners got word that Gimenez was looking at a May 18 date for opening some businesses though he indicated that was “a target date” and not set in stone. No details were provided so the City’s plan will remain in draft form for the time being.
Once those details are known, the City can tailor its own plan that may be stricter but cannot be more lenient. “One size does not fit all,” Morales said using guidelines on restaurant openings as an example. With the many restaurants that rely primarily on outdoor seating and outdoor cafés in areas with pedestrians passing close by, Morales said, “We need to think about how [the guidelines] work in our context.”
The timeline continues to depend on the advice of medical professionals and relies on consistent data showing a reduced number of new cases and hospitalizations, more widespread testing and the capability for contact tracing to be able to quarantine sick individuals and those they’ve come in contact with.
The good news, Morales said, is that the daily percentage of positive tests is down, though there has been a recent spike in hospitalizations. In terms of testing, he said the new drive-through and walk-up site at the Convention Center is a good step toward increasing the number of people who will be tested. Initially the site has the capability of doing 400 tests a day but he hopes that will increase to 750.
The draft reopening plan initially includes Phases 1A and B and a Phase 2 (all subject to County guidelines):
Phase 1A includes retail stores opening at 25% capacity with social distancing and face coverings required. Offices could reopen with minimum on-site staff and continued telework. Face coverings would be required for employees and customers within 6 feet. Museums and residential pools would also be included in Phase 1A.
Restaurants would be in Phase 1B, operating at 25% capacity with 6 feet between tables. Bars remain closed until Phase 2. The City is exploring the potential of expanding outdoor seating areas which may include closing some streets similar to what other cities have done to accommodate the space needed for distancing between tables.
In Phase 2: residential and commercial gyms, personal services such as hair and nail salons and spas, and beaches and hotels would reopen.
TBD: When clubs, large venues including concert halls and the Convention Center could reopen.
Morales noted one requirement that he hasn’t seen in other plans – an employer commitment to referring symptomatic employees for testing and contact tracing. The plan outlines a “process that hopefully gets us through a Fall where we don’t see a resurgence,” he said.
Morales said in terms of hospital capacity, the numbers are good. The “positive case testing numbers are trending downward” and the City is “almost there on testing capacity.”
“We’re probably not there yet” on the contract tracing capability, though he noted the County’s goal to have an infrastructure in place in the next couple of weeks.
Following the discussion on the overall plan, Commissioners discussed resolutions to encourage Gimenez to allow a partial opening of the beaches and pools in residential condo buildings. The beach resolution, sponsored by Commissioner Ricky Arriola, would have opened the beaches from 6 am to 10 am for exercise-only. For a second time, Arriola’s motion failed to get a second so it died.
When Commissioner Mark Samuelian realized he didn’t have a second on the pool resolution, he opted to defer it until Wednesday’s meeting when more details of the County’s plan may be available.
Commissioners did agree with Arriola's resolution to reopen South Pointe Park which closed after crowds of people showed up, many not following social distancing and face covering rules. Beginning this Monday, the park will be open Monday through Friday from 7 am to 8 pm. There will be one entrance and City employees will ensure that all those who enter have a face covering (which can be taken off for strenuous exercise within the park). No coolers, picnics, or gatherings of more than 10 people. Social distancing rules will be enforced.
Also, hours in all open parks and green spaces including tennis centers are now extended until 8 pm. More details on which parks are open along with the rules can be found here.
Morales’ memo and presentation on the draft reopening plan can be found here.
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