HIALEAH, FLA. (WSVN) - As businesses continue to reopen across Miami-Dade, new numbers of COVID-19 cases are a grim reminder that the pandemic is far from over.
The Florida Department of Health reported 20,548 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Miami-Dade on Thursday.
But despite the sobering announcement, business owners continue their plans to reopen their doors after being closed since the start of the pandemic.
Several South Florida casinos announced they will reopen on Friday at a reduced capacity, including Hialeah Park Casino.
“It feels fantastic,” said Steve Calabro, the casino’s general manager.
But customers trying their luck will find noticeable changes when they walk in this weekend.
“We’ve been working for about 11 weeks to make everything here for our employees and our guests and our customers as safe as possible,” said Calabro.
Employees will check customers’ temperatures before they are allowed to enter, and masks will be mandatory.
Every other slot machine will be unplugged.
“That $132,000 jackpot will be available to any of the guests who want to come in here and play that machine,” said Calabro.
Once someone gets up and moves from a slot machine, that area will be sanitized.
“One of the clean team members will clean that seat and that area down,” said Calabro.
More striking are the changes in the poker room.
“We have a custom designed protective shield,” said Calabro.
Adjustable partitions are in between each seat and around the entire table, and the poker chips are cleaned throughout the day.
Similar changes are also being made at The Big Easy in Hallandale Beach.
“We have sanitizing touchless stations where you can get sanitizer,” said Daniel Adkins, the casino’s chief gaming executive.
Cases of COVID-19 are on the rise across South Florida and the state since businesses started reopening, but Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said this is nothing to worry about.
“Go look at New York and what New York had. That’s a spike, so to say that there’s a spike, there’s just never been a spike in Florida,” he said.
Experts, however, disagree with the governor’s assessment.
“It’s not an equivalent situation,” said Dr. Aileen Marty, infectious disease specialist at Florida International University.
Between protests, reopenings, beaches and people just not following the guidelines, Marty said, increases are likely to continue unless people strictly follow the rules.
“If you give the virus the opportunity to go from one host to the next, it will,” she said.
As for the local casinos opening Friday, they said they plan to follow county and state guidelines.
“We’re just following their lead, because we’re really all in this together,” said Calabro.
Hialeah Park is scheduled to reopen Friday at 9 a.m.
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