New Mask Guidelines for Miami Beach Facilities Amid Surge in COVID Cases

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

New Mask Guidelines for Miami Beach Facilities Amid Surge in COVID Cases:

Less than 30% of employees vaccinated

Due to the surge in COVID cases fueled mainly by the delta variant, new safety measures are being implemented countywide. Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava reinstated mask requirements for employees and visitors indoors at all County facilities, regardless of vaccination status. The County is also “strongly” recommending masks in all public settings including outdoors “especially when in large crowds and around people you don’t know to be vaccinated.”

Levine Cava is also “calling on all private businesses to implement smart COVID policies.”

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber had planned to introduce his own measures at the City Commission meeting this week that would have allowed those who provide voluntary proof of vaccination to go without masks, but the Mayor and Commissioners elected to follow Levine Cava’s announcement of the stricter measures.

“If I could, I would mandate vaccinations,” Gelber said.

City Manager Alina Hudak told Commissioners that a small percentage of City employees have voluntarily disclosed they are vaccinated and, in addition to an increase in infections and even hospitalizations among employees, one City employee passed away due to COVID.

“A couple sobering facts that everyone should be aware of,” she began. “Unfortunately, our vaccination rate amongst our employee base is not where we would like for it to be. It is less than 30 percent.”

“That is a percentage that concerns me tremendously,” Hudak said. “It is something that I personally have been extremely committed to.” She said the City had hosted six or seven vaccination events for employees and offered $50 gift cards as incentives. 

“We’ve done anything and everything we can possibly do,” she added. “I’ve sent messages to all of our employees… We’ve encouraged department directors and, in every situation, where we are gathered together, we all talk about the importance of protecting each other and protecting the public that we serve. That is a message that has been repeated consistently throughout the last three months, obviously, since the vaccine became readily available at every age group.”

She has become increasingly concerned over the last two weeks. “At a particular moment last week, we had more individuals infected and positive with COVID in our Police Department than we had at the height of COVID,” Hudak told Commissioners, something she discussed with police and union leadership. Several employees remain hospitalized and “as all of us know, we sadly lost a member of our City of Miami Beach family to COVID, so we are extremely concerned with what we are seeing and the evolution over the last two weeks.”

While a City spokeswoman said the City could not disclose any further information about the employee who passed away, several sources confirmed social media posts that the individual was a 55-year old Park Ranger who was not vaccinated.

Mayor Gelber Urges Governor DeSantis to Allow Local Governments to Act

On Friday, Gelber sent a letter to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis urging him to allow local businesses to require proof of vaccination and to restore authority to local governments “to impose measures that protect residents, including mask mandates.”

“I believe efforts to outlaw vaccine ‘passports’ in the name of personal freedom have contributed to the resurgence of the virus,” Gelber wrote. Citing “a huge amount of misinformation” about the vaccines, he said, “Our hospitals are filling up with those tragically misinformed and unvaccinated. This population could be motivated to get their shots if proof of vaccination was a passport for certain activities. While I understand the importance of letting people make decisions about their own safety, that deference should also apply to people who run businesses and wish to choose to give their customers and employees a safer environment. Even FOX News implemented a ‘passport’ that requires a vaccination in order to come to work maskless. Florida businesses, including cruise ships, should be free to do the same to protect patrons and workers.”

“Also, the decision to essentially outlaw local mask mandates has had disastrous repercussions as it has fully frustrated efforts to cabin the virus’ spread,” Gelber continued. “In response to local governments’ attempts to get people to wear masks, you have regularly pronounced that you won’t allow cities to shutter the economy. This is a false choice, as I am unaware of any local government, including my own, that is trying to shutter the economy. To the contrary, by getting people to wear masks and be smart about physical distancing, we are promoting a safer and more vibrant economy.”

“Finally,” Gelber wrote, “I respectfully urge you to step back from your public ridicule of the CDC and the medical community. You have the most powerful voice in our State and one of the most influential in the Nation. And, so many of your supporters are the ones most likely to balk at getting a vaccine or wearing a mask, actions that are demonstrably lifesaving. If you simply become a more vocal proponent for vaccinations and for mask usage at this critical moment, I believe hundreds of thousands would follow your lead. And undoubtedly thousands of lives would be saved.”

“Local officials will continue to find ways to urge healthy practices notwithstanding these obstacles. The point is, we should be doing so with you as our partner and leader, and not our adversary. We should be seeking to protect our residents with your efforts and not in spite of them,” Gelber concluded.

Testing and Vaccinations Return to the Beach

Beginning Monday, August 2, a COVID testing and vaccination site will return to the parking lot on 17th Street and Convention Center Drive. The site, to be operated by Nomi Health, will be open seven days a week from 8 am to 5 pm with no appointments necessary.

This will be a walk-up site offering Pfizer (two shots) and Johnson & Johnson (one shot) vaccines. Nasal swab PCR tests will be conducted with turn-around times of less than 24 hours from when the sample is taken.

According to the City’s announcement of the site, “Nomi Health will collect health insurance information, but patients will not be charged directly nor asked for a co-pay. If someone does not have health insurance information, they will be required to complete an Attestation, which allows Nomi Health to submit a reimbursement request from Federal funding sources.”

To view other testing locations in Miami-Dade County, click here. To view the vaccine locator, click here.



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