While emergency orders for Miami Beach continue to tighten, further restricting movement and behavior, City Manager Jimmy Morales said his team is beginning to look at what a reopening of the City’s economy will look like. Most likely, he said, it will be a gradual, phased approach with higher risk activities such as large events being among the last to be reintroduced.
Morales made his comments during a live Town Hall meeting on Facebook sponsored by the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce.
One of the biggest questions, of course, is when. The City Manager said May 1st is the “earlier” point on the schedule though he noted some predictions are “looking at early May as the peak of our challenges.”
“How we roll out – we don’t want to open too quickly as you’ve seen in a couple of countries where all of a sudden the virus reemerges and we’re back to where we started – so we want to do it in a slow, methodical way to make sure that we’re still protecting the community where people feel safe to come out,” Morales said, noting his team is “already thinking about that.”
He said he’s asked his staff “to begin to map out what reopenings look like.”
“We probably want to reopen in ways that are more functionally distant and responsible,” he said. “Maybe you open restaurants where they are at 50% capacity and you create more space between tables, maybe reopen parks that are more passive parks, maybe golf courses where there’s more social distance.”
“We’re working with the hotel industry because we know you don’t just flip a switch and a hotel opens up,” he said, acknowledging there needs to be time to reactivate staff and replenish supplies.
“Once we get to a point where we really flatten this curve and we think we see that light at the end of the tunnel, we’ll then work closely with the [hospitality] industry… to identify how best to reopen the economy in a way that will make it sustainable,” Morales said.
“My guess is some of the more higher risk activities are the things we’ll do last,” he added, emphasizing the City will continue to do everything it can to protect its senior citizens.
“International travel, again, could be one of those higher risk things that are opened later,” he said. “Some of the entertainment activities are a little more high-risk as well. Big festivals on the beach, things like that, may be things that wait” while the focus might be on reopening “some of the safer things that will get our residents back out in restaurants and hotels.”
Morales said he has asked his staff to look at countries that are coming out of their health crises to see “how they’re reopening and see what we can learn from that.”
Asked if the City could help small businesses with financial incentives, Morales responded, “The city is hurting financially so I don’t know how much money we’re going to be able to put on the table.” The City is losing $3.6 million weekly in tourism revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic. It has implemented a freeze on hiring and expenditures and released 192 part-time and temporary employees as a means of cost cutting.
“We’ll work to see what kind of financial incentives we may be able to afford come the time. What we’re focusing a lot on is trying to help maximize the amount of Federal and State dollars that our businesses can access by providing them technical assistance... to make sure they can compete well for the Federal, State, and non-profit dollars that will become available,” Morales said.
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