MIAMI (WSVN) - Leaders from several Miami-Dade County municipalities said they will be requiring residents to wear face coverings in public spaces at all times in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, as the state surpassed 100,000 reported cases of the virus.
Mayors of several major cities in Miami-Dade and other local leaders addressed the matter at a news conference on Monday.
“We are going to be implementing a ‘mask in public’ rule,” said City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez.
“It’s not time to panic, but it is time to make sure that we take individual responsibility,” said Pinecrest Mayor Joseph Corradino.
Officials said the following municipalities will be enforcing this regulation:
- North Miami Beach
- Miami Gardens
- West Miami
A tweet posted by Miami Gardens officials reads in part, “Once you leave your home, you MUST wear a face covering except while exercising.”
“In Miami Gardens, you have to wear a mask,” said Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert. “We’re not telling you to wear a mask because we enjoy wearing masks. We’re telling you to wear a mask because this is literally a question of life and death.”
In a Facebook post, Monday night, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber clarified that people should wear face coverings “in any location where social distancing is not possible, including all outdoor areas.”
In a tweet, Key Biscayne officials said they are considering enforcing this rule.
The announcement comes days after three restaurants in Miami were ordered closed after police discovered violations to the new normal guidelines set by the county and the city.
Two of those businesses, Astra in Wynwood and Swan in the Design District, were able to reopen on Sunday after signing an affidavit agreeing to follow the safety regulations.
The owner of the third restaurant, El Secreto Bar and Grill in Little Havana, said it is registered as a bar and thus not allowed to reopen yet.
Over the weekend, Dr. Scott A. Rivkees, Florida’s Surgeon General, issued a public health advisory that said, “All individuals in Florida should wear face coverings in any setting where social distancing is not possible.”
On Monday, Suarez and other mayors in Miami-Dade went a step further.
“Everyone will have to be wearing masks in public,” said Suarez.
Local doctors expressed concerns over the recent surge in cases across the state and in South Florida.
“It’s time for us to take responsibility,” said Dr. David Joseph De La Zerda, a pulmonary critical care specialist at University of Miami Health Systems. “As we go and enjoy the parks, enjoy the outdoors and enjoy the open economy, we need to remember that it’s our responsibility to keep ourselves and others safe.”
June Ellis with Jackson Memorial Hospital addressed an alarming aspect about the uptick in local COVID-19 cases.
“We are seeing a significant amount of patients in their younger years,” she said.
Suarez also pointed out three ZIP codes with a dramatic increase in new cases: 33142, 33125 and 33126.
“We are extremely concerned that hospitalizations are up, ventilators are up, [intensive care unit] patients are up,” he said.
Last week, Suarez was spotted at Swan standing shoulder to shoulder between two other men as they posed for a picture. Only one of the other men was wearing a mask.
“It’s incumbent upon me as a public official to make sure that every single picture that I take is done responsibly, and that one wasn’t,” he admitted.
With the spike in cases across the state, Gelber has a simple message for businesses and his residents: follow the rules or get ready for another shutdown.
“Obviously, if we get to a point where our health care system is going to be overrun, we’ll have to consider everything on the table,” he said.
Earlier Monday, Gelber addressed the rise in new local COVID-19 cases in a video message.
“The true concern remains that the actual percentage of positive cases is increasing, and is now coming in at well over 10%,” he said.
Gelber also urged younger residents to observe social distancing guidelines.
“It is true that there is a large increase in the volume of young people testing positive,” he said, “but there are perils, as they can also get sick and are just as likely to get older people sick. At Jackson Memorial Hospital yesterday, the average age of those hospitalized was 39.”
Broward County leaders said they will be meeting this week to work out new safety requirements. They are scheduled to announce their new policy and enforcement plans Wednesday morning.
“Even more stringent than we did before and that we enforce it, so we are working on a plan now to further mandate that, that if businesses are not in compliance, they ought to be closed down,” said Broward County Mayor Dale Holness.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the state will be rolling out a new public service announcement soon to teach people about social distancing guidelines.
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