MIAMI BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - The beaches in South Florida were open for the first holiday since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, drawing thousands of people and concerns about how the large crowds would affect the number of COVID-19 cases in the region.
South Beach was relatively quiet on Monday, a sharp contrast to what was seen over the weekend.
A drone camera flew over a fairly empty Ocean Drive.
It was a different story, however, on Saturday and Sunday, when thousands of pedestrians flocked to the iconic street to celebrate the holiday.
“There were certainly a lot of people out there,” said Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber.
Safety patrols were hard at work throughout the weekend to ensure residents and visitors were abiding by the rules set by the state, such as face masks and social distancing.
“We have seen an increase in visitors,” said Miami Beach Police officer Ernesto Rodriguez. “We have additional officers all along our roadways, on our sand, and also on the waterways.”
Monday night, Gelber addressed some of his concerns in an interview with CNN.
“It’s not been the beaches that have been as much of a problem as the crowds that are often attending at home parties and get-togethers elsewhere,” he said.
Many revelers could be seen neglecting to abide by the rules officials warned of ahead of the holiday weekend.
“Not much social distancing, no,” said one resident, “but masks, yes and no.”
“It’s kind of that screw it mentality, it’s Labor Day Weekend,” said one visitor.
Police officers were out in large numbers enforcing the 10 p.m. curfew.
Monday afternoon, there was the usual crowd on Fort Lauderdale Beach.
“I think everyone is more careful,” said a Fort Lauderdale resident.
“People that I’m with are respective of all the rules,” said another resident.
“Yeah, I got my mask, trying to stay safe, trying to keep apart from everybody,” said one beachgoer.
There was more than one reason to celebrate on Monday. Florida health officials reported 1,838 new COVID-19 infections, the lowest number since June. The positivity rate was just over 5% in Miami-Dade and just over 3% in Broward.
That trend was also present on Tuesday when 1,823 new COVID-19 cases were reported in the state by the Florida Department of Health.
In Miami-Dade and Broward counties, 389 and 130 new coronavirus cases reported, respectively.
State officials also reported 44 deaths.
City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said all he and other local leaders can do now is wait to see if the downward trend continues.
“We have seen spikes after long weekends, after spring break, and so that’s certainly a concern, something we’ve been messaging for the last few days,” he said.
Local businesses, meanwhile, hope the busy weekend will give them a boost in traffic they desperately need.
“We’re just hoping people are patient to get their table, and they respect the fact that we’re trying to do the right thing,” said Kimberley Fuentes at Ann’s Florist and Coffee Bar on Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale.
Miami Beach Police said the area was relatively quiet over the weekend except for a single incident Sunday night.
Due to the virus’ incubation period, it will take several weeks to know whether or not the long weekend led to a spike in cases, and if there is, to see whether those cases stay in South Florida.
Anyone with questions and concerns about the coronavirus can call the Florida Department of Health’s 24-hour hotline at 1-866-779-6121.
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