Mayor Gimenez signs $14 million agreement for 250 additional contact tracers in Miami-Dade County

MIAMI GARDENS, FLA. (WSVN) - As the number of COVID-19 cases in the state continues to rise each day, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez is bringing more contact tracers to South Florida.

On Thursday morning, Gimenez announced he signed a $14 million agreement to have 250 more contact tracers in Miami-Dade County.

The announcement came after Florida reported nearly 9,000 new COVID-19 cases in 24 hours. Virus cases have since topped 230,000 statewide.

As of Thursday, over 4,000 Floridians have died from the virus, which includes Yansi Ayala, an 11-year-old Broward County girl who died at Broward Health Medical Center on Wednesday. Although Yansi’s cause of death was ruled as COVID-19, officials confirmed she had other underlying health conditions, such as asthma and heart disease.

She is the second 11-year-old in the past week who has died from the virus.

Daequan Wimberly, an 11-year-old boy at Jackson Memorial Hospital, also died from the virus on July 1. He also had other underlying medical conditions.

The agreement will have the contact tracers working until the end of 2020. Contact tracers work to determine where COVID-19 is spreading in the community.

There was some confusion between Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Gimenez in regards to who was responsible for hiring the contact tracers.

“Well, no. He announced that he was going to do it, and he told me,” said DeSantis. “He gave us a heads up that they were going to be investing in some of it. We, obviously, have done it at the state level.”

Gimenez said the contact tracers will work for the Florida Department of Health and will be paid by Miami-Dade County funds received from the federal CARES Act.

During a news conference outside Miami City Hall Thursday afternoon, mayors from across Miami-Dade County expressed frustration over Gimenez’s leadership during the pandemic.

“I have not spoken to the mayor of the county. I have not been to any meeting. I have not been invited to a meeting,” Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez said. “Where is the evidence? That evidence is tracing, and we haven’t had any tracing in this county from the beginning.”

They said they aren’t being consulted when it comes to major decisions like restaurant closures.

When asked if he lost faith in Gimenez to lead South Florida out of the pandemic, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez responded, “I’m going to tell you what I’m going to do — and we spoke about this yesterday at a press conference — I’m calling Mayor Gimenez. I’m going to call Mayor Gimenez, and I’m gonna tell Mayor Gimenez it is incumbent upon all of us to communicate.”

The mayors want that communication to focus on contact tracing: men and women whose job it is to find out where someone was infected with the virus and who they may have passed it on to.

Although Gimenez announced the $14 million agreement with the state to bring 250 additional contact tracers to South Florida, some of the mayors said that’s not enough.

That’s because the hospitals are filling up fast, and 25 mayors across the area signed a letter saying they do not believe Gimenez has made health decisions with enough information. They added that they are not happy with that leadership.

“There are 343 people in intensive care beds right now in Miami-Dade County,” Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said, adding that more than half of them are on ventilators.

Across South Florida, less than 15% of ICU beds are still available, and some healthcare systems are currently adding more beds to an already strained system.

“We are a lot worse today than we were before the previous lockdown,” Dr. Aileen Marty, an infectious disease expert at Florida International University, said. “Our situation is quite serious throughout Florida. Our hospital systems are very, very stressed right now. Our doctors and our nurses are exhausted. Several admissions that I was involved with today, people are extremely ill.”

7SkyForce hovered over the testing site at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens where hundreds of vehicles could be seen lined up with people waiting to be tested on Thursday, which started piling up even before dawn.

“We need those people, when they test positive, to know instantly, we need to be able to contact their friends and people they’ve come in contact with,” Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert said.

As positive cases continue to rise daily in Miami-Dade County, several other changes have been announced regarding restaurants, gyms and ballrooms.

Banquet halls and ballrooms have been instructed to close, and gyms and restaurants have been given strict guidelines to remain open.

Gimenez said he is also preparing to launch a voluntary community empowerment program through an app that is designed to help people track virus hot spots to reduce the spread. He said there will be more details on the app in the future.

7News reached out to Gimenez for comment, but he was unavailable for an interview.

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