MIAMI BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - The mayors of Fort Lauderdale and Miami Beach have announced they will be enforcing beach closures and restrictions to business hours of operation as part of a strategy to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.
Speaking at a news conference in Miami Beach, Sunday afternoon, Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis and Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber went over the measures in detail.
As far as spring break festivities go, Gelber did not mince words.
“The reason we did this was to send a message out: spring break is over,” he said.
“We have to take bold yet responsible measures to limit large gatherings,” said Trantalis.
Gelber said Miami Beach will be closing its beach from Fifth to 15th streets, and beginning Monday, Lummus Park will be closed.
“We can’t become a Petri dish for a very dangerous virus,” he said.
The city will also be shutting down parking garages and surface lots, except for residents and access cardholders.
In Fort Lauderdale, the city will be closing the dry sand portion of its public beach from Harbor Drive to north of Oakland Park Boulevard.
“Closing our beaches decreases the amount of public safety resources needed to interact with the high-density spring break population, which reduces exposure to our police and first responders, so they can continue to carry out their important life-saving duties should the situation become more widespread,” said Trantalis.
Trantalis also confirmed the city will now require all bars and restaurants to close by 10 p.m. and will be required to operate at no more than 50 percent of their allowed capacity.
Gelber, meanwhile, said Miami Beach is taking a similar measure, with the additional step of implementing a curfew in the entertainment district.
“All non-essential retail in our city will be required to close by 10 p.m., and curfew will be at 11 p.m. in the entertainment district,” he said. “We don’t want our streets to become a place to party, a place to gather, a place to create a venue organically. We’ve got to end now.”
However, both mayors stressed that banks, grocery stores, pharmacies and other essential businesses will stay open.
Gelber and Trantalis also announced strict occupancy requirements for bars and restaurants.
“All public gatherings of more than 250 will be prohibited, with the exception of retail establishments, grocery stores, Broward County government, the Broward County School District, the North Broward Hospital District and agencies of the state and federal government,” said Trantalis.
“We’re going to urge them all to follow the 50% occupancy suggestion,” said Gelber. “It will be a criminal offense, by the way, to disobey this.”
Speaking at a news conference in Tallahassee, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he approves of the new rules.
“Missing out on staying out and drinking at a bar, that is not the end of the world,” he said. “You’re gonna have time to do that in the rest of your life.”
But some are skeptical of the new changes, because they came after a wild night in South Beach on Saturday, when a stampede of spring breakers ran through the streets after Miami Beach Police officers, who had responded to a call of a man with a gun, opened fire.
“Possibly because spring break is out of control, because there’s like a million more people here than what there usually are,” said a woman.
That man was taken to the hospital in unknown condition, officials said.
Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales said these restrictions can be enforced for seven days. He said the city plans to revisit them on Wednesday.
An early night is no problem for Natalia and Marta who are visiting the city from Poland.
“We’ll probably just stroll around here and enjoy the sun because in Poland right now it’s winter, so it’s like zero degrees,” said Natalia. “We’re going to come back to our hotel like very early.”
They have an early flight to catch on Tuesday, but they still don’t know how they’ll be getting home.
“Right now, the flights to Poland are all cancelled, so we need to go to Berlin and then buy [a] car or [get on a] bus — we don’t know yet,” said Natalia.
Trantalis added that this year’s Tortuga Music Festival has been postponed.
The beaches and city parks in Hallandale Beach are also closed. There is a 10 p.m. curfew being enforced for restaurants and bars in the city.
Sunday night, the CDC issued a statement recommending that large groups should not exceed 50 people in one given space at any time.
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