Miami Beach mayor concerned about possible increase in COVID-19 variants due to spring break

MIAMI BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - City leaders in South Florida are worried the increase of spring break tourists seen not following COVID-19 guidelines will lead to an increase in cases and virus variants in the coming weeks.

After days of debauchery in Miami Beach’s entertainment district, Mayor Dan Gelber expressed his anger towards spring breakers on Tuesday.

“The problem is we have too many people coming. We have too many people coming who just want to let loose in ways that are unacceptable,” Gelber said.

Amid the unruly crowds and rough arrests that occurred this past weekend, one of Gelber’s biggest concerns is the effect the increase in tourists will have on the pandemic.

“We have a pandemic, including, I think, really is sort of grand central for the variant, so there’s a lot of things to be concerned about,” Gelber said. “Our medical advisors say exactly what the national medical advisors say that this is all very perilous, and that, in fact, it could easily be something that spreads elsewhere, and we don’t want it because, honestly, it’s not healthy for our residents, and we certainly don’t want to be a hub of a problem that affects other communities — locally or elsewhere.”

Enforcing the city’s COVID-19 guidelines has become a challenge for leaders thanks to an executive order from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, which prevents cities, like Miami Beach, from collecting COVID-19-related fines.

“We were the first city, I think, in the country when the CDC said to have masks that we made a mandate about it, and we gave over 1,000 fines for it,” Gelber said. “The governor said we’re not allowed to do that. Recently, he said we can’t do anything to promote that kind of compliance. We’re doing the best we can.”

In the meantime, South Floridians have been lining up at vaccination sites across the region to get inoculated.

This week, Florida lowered the age requirement to 60 years old, and the new eligible recipients flocked to sites like Miami-Dade College North to get a vaccine.

“Freedom. We can go out, enjoy your family and now we can think about traveling again,” Willie Jones said.

Gelber said the city has done everything it can to promote safety. On Saturday, Goodwill ambassadors handed out 7,000 masks at no cost.

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