Miami-Dade mayor to allow gyms, fitness studios to remain open

MIAMI (WSVN) - Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez will now allow gyms to remain open in the county.

The mayor made the announcement on Twitter, Tuesday morning, reversing course from a statement he made on Monday.

“We’re all happy to comply, yes!” Salam Hachem, of She Fitness Studio, said.

Gyms were initially included in the types of businesses required to shut down in Miami-Dade beginning Wednesday.

However, Gimenez said that he came to a compromise on the matter and that people heading to the gyms will be required to wear masks the entire time they are inside the facility.

“Do I want to close the gyms? No, I didn’t want to close the gyms,” Gimenez said. “That’s why I found a compromise. It’s not about the cases that we know came from gyms or from restaurants, it’s about the fact that being able to keep the mask on in an interior space. The gyms can stay open. The dance studios can stay open, but they all must wear a mask while indoors.”

Gimenez added, “I don’t think the gyms were the problem here. The problem was social interaction, and social interaction without wearing masks, social interaction getting too close, and I believe that’s the main cause of what we’re seeing right now, and now it’s spreading throughout the community.”

The decision comes on the same day another 2,066 COVID-19 cases were reported in Miami-Dade County by the Florida Department of Health.

As of Wednesday, nearly 3,000 more COVID-19 cases were reported throughout the county.

“We were freaked out yesterday, just because we didn’t expect that,” Gabriel Varona, of Stunna’s Fit, said. “No proof, no purpose, you know? It was like, ‘Why? Everything else is open.’ You know, Target, Home Depot, I mean, the malls are open! We understand that this is serious. Trust me, we’re all well aware, but we have to have a fighting chance to survive. We’re all small business owners. Just give us a chance.”

Ballrooms, banquet facilities, party venues, short-term rentals and indoor dining rooms at restaurants will still be forced to close on Thursday.

“I just couldn’t find a way to keep restaurants open. It’s impossible,” Gimenez said.

Outdoor dining at restaurants will still be available, with no more than four people to a table. Kitchens may continue to operate from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., but the orders must be takeout or delivery only.

“I’m starting to get really concerned,” Igor Ferraro said. “This restaurant has many orders that are not meant to be takeout or delivery restaurants, you know?”

Meanwhile at R House in Miami’s Wynwood section, a hot spot that had Gloria Estefan doing the Conga with drag queens in February 2019, Owen Bale, one of the owners, said the changing rules have affected his business.

“It’s certainly a roller coaster of a day when you wake up, and you realize you have to lay off your entire team off for a second time, and then, by the end of the day, you’ve got to call everybody back up to tell them, ‘Hey guys, it was a false alarm,'” he said.

Bale added that the establishment has done everything it can to get back to business after being closed for over three months due to the pandemic.

“We have plexiglass screens, so the performers can perform behind them,” he said. “We brought these picnic tables in temporarily, and as you can see, there’s 6 feet between each table. We’re planning to continue business as usual just in our outdoor area this weekend. It’s difficult to navigate, but we would really love to see joined up thinking, thought through decisions before announcements are made.”

“If this continues to go on for as long as it’s gone on now and go further, our businesses will shut down permanently,” a woman said.

In the last few days, Emily Bench, founder of pilates studio Pilathon, said she rode through a “roller coaster of emotions” — feeling frustrated, relieved, angry and excited all at once — when she heard she had to close her studio again after being closed for three months, then finding out later that she can leave it open.

“We call this our Pilates Temple,” she said. “We did the happy dancing, ‘Yes! We’re here! We’re not going anywhere!’ but then I thought, ‘Why didn’t you have this productive spiritual meeting before closing or they’re starting to close?’ It’s like, I feel no one knows, really, what to do.”

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez expressed the same frustration.

“It’s been a complicated last two days to see what [Mayor Gimenez] has done, implementing this and reversing that,” he said. “I got a tremendous amount of calls from other mayors that are very concerned about the decision-making process.”

Suarez said he wants to make sure decisions are science- and fact-based and that there’s detailed information coming from contact tracers.

“When you make a decision of this magnitude, there has to be a justification, and I think that’s what was missing,” he said.

Gimenez said his decision came after what he called a “huge spike” in residents testing positive in mid-June, saying that is the time when gyms reopened, restrictions for restaurant operating hours were lifted and protests were occurring following the death of George Floyd.

“This contagion really took off with that young demographic, 18 to 34, 35 to 45 age group,” said the mayor. “It just shot up, and now we’re seeing the results of that. We’re also gonna have to do a lot more enforcing of the rules that we have in place because if everyone had just followed the rules we would be OK, but unfortunately, a lot of people didn’t follow the rules, especially early in June.”

Meanwhile, State Rep. Shevrin Jones, D-Broward County, said he’s been fighting COVID-19 for around eight days.

“This morning I’m feeling just a tad bit better,” said Jones.

Jones said he’d like to see more changes being made statewide.

“If Broward is not following Miami-Dade County and Palm Beach is not following Broward County, all you’re going to see is individuals getting on 95 and traveling up north to go to dinner or to do other things, and so there should be a stay at home order until these numbers come back down,” he said.

Gimenez and his office are working to finalize the emergency order.

No changes are being made for Broward County as of Tuesday night.

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