Miami-Dade officials announce crackdown on safety measures amid rise in COVID-19 cases

MIAMI (WSVN) - For the second day in a row since the pandemic, Thursday’s COVID-19 case numbers for Florida have set an alarming new record. As a result, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez is cracking down on safety measures to slow the spread of the virus.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and other local leaders addressed the increase in cases at a news conference Friday.

DeSantis continues to say that, despite the increase in confirmed infections and the infection rate, there’s no reason to be alarmed.

“As you test more, you find more, and that’s basically been something we believed from the beginning,” he said.

According to DeSantis, over 1.5 million people have tested positive for the coronavirus so far, and those who tested positive are trending younger.

“That’s what our focus is now. Tougher enforcement that includes masks and social distancing.” he said.

He said that’s why the state will launch another coronavirus awareness program aimed at the younger population, with reminders about hand-washing, masks and social distancing.

“It’s concerning that the positive rate may be going up, but it’s not alarming,” Gimenez said.

Gimenez said the education period is over, and it is now about enforcement. He said business owners and employees should know what to do at this point in time.

With COVID-19 cases on the rise in Miami-Dade County and across the state, Gimenez made a promise to bust any business caught breaking the rules.

“Now, with the virus spreading, just as we have started to open up our economy, we’re going to get tough on those who are not following the rules,” he said.

Three healthcare systems from across South Florida responded to concerns about the increase in hospitalizations as a result of the rise in COVID-19 cases.

“We have 150 COVID patients of which 45 of them are in intensive care beds,” Carlos A. Migoya of Jackson Memorial Hospital said, “and if we were to double that number, we would still have additional beds available.”

“If we have to ramp up, we have the ability to ramp up,” Aurelio M. Fernandez of Memorial Healthcare System said.

“We’re safe, we have capacity, we have resources,” Maggie Gill of Palm Beach Health Network said.

“We have twice as much capacity in the hospitals throughout the state of Florida today than before the pandemic began,” DeSantis said.

On Thursday, Florida documented another record-breaking increase of more than 3,000 additional cases reported. The state experienced another high on Friday with close to 4,000 new cases reported.

Officials said the Sunshine State has seen its highest one day total yet.

“Our city, like every city in Miami-Dade, is worried about the spikes we’re seeing,” said Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber. “The re-opening shouldn’t be interpreted as an all-clear. It’s not. We have a lot of virus in our community, and right now, it’s going in the wrong direction.”

“No warnings. From now on, if we see a violation, we close the business immediately,” said Gimenez.

“I have a call today with hundreds of businesses in Miami Beach to let them know that we are going to start increasing our enforcement because the self-policing is not working,” said Gelber.

Results show an increase in positive cases in those between 25 and 34 years old.

“These are probably folks getting tested before they’re going back to work,” said CEO of Cleveland Clinic Florida Dr. Wael Barsoum. “Many of them are asymptomatic, so we would not have caught them. To be clear, it’s good that we’re testing them. It’s good that we’re catching it, because it’s those folks that could unwittingly spread the disease to others.”

Others refer to senior citizens who are more susceptible to catching and dying from the disease.

“Florida has always made the stuff of nightmares,” said Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo of the UAB Division of Infectious Diseases.

She said the state could be headed for disaster.

“The potential for the virus to take off there is very, very nerve-wracking and could have catastrophic consequences,” she said.

The latest numbers have New York Governor Andrew Cuomo considering advice from experts on imposing a quarantine on people traveling there from Florida.

“If you want to talk about a full 180, for people who don’t remember back to day one, Florida and other states imposed a quarantine on New Yorkers,” said Cuomo. “If you went to Florida, you had to quarantine for two weeks, because they were afraid that New Yorkers were bringing the virus to their state.”

He said further, “Fast forward a hundred days, now we’re afraid they’re bringing the virus to our state.”

That is why, experts said, it is important for residents to practice social distancing, wash their hands frequently and wear a mask in public.

“You choosing not to wear a mask is essentially saying that you don’t care about those around you,” said Barsoum.

City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez shared a similar sentiment.

“We’re very concerned,” he said. “We’re sounding the alarm bells and we’re also stepping up our enforcement to make sure that this alarming trend does not continue.”

Officers assigned to Miami’s business district will be on the lookout for violations.

If anyone spots a violation and would like to make a report, call 305-4-POLICE (765423)

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