MIAMI (WSVN) - City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez spoke about the potential of taking legal action against the county over an allocation of relief funds as the state reached another grim milestone in the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Tuesday, the Florida Department of Health reported a record-high amount of deaths for the state with an increase of 186, bringing the total to 6,117.
Wednesday’s death toll broke Tuesday’s numbers with an additional 216 deaths reported in the state, bringing the total to 6,333.
FDOH has reported a total of 451,423 COVID-19 cases in Florida, 113,143 of which were reported in Miami-Dade, 52,970 in Broward and 1,198 cases in Monroe County.
“Statewide, we’ve seen a decline in visits for COVID-like illness to emergency departments,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said, “a stabilization or decline in the COVID hospital census at hospitals throughout the state, which is, again, is another positive signal.”
There are some encouraging signs. According to the county dashboard, the number of people hospitalized in Miami-Dade is the lowest it’s been in two weeks, but at over 2,000, it’s still high.
“We are still concerned about the occupancy in our ICU units, and those are lag factors. When you see an increase over time, you will also see an increase later of hospitalizations,” said Broward County Mayor Dale Holness.
At city hall, Suarez spoke about a legal battle brewing among local leaders.
The mayor said he’s looking to take legal action against Miami-Dade County over COVID-19 relief funding.
Earlier in July, county officials proposed giving cities about $135 million in COVID-19 relief since they are ineligible to get it directly from Washington.
“It is offensive, and it is insulting the way that they carried this on,” said Suarez. “We’re entitled to receive, based on population, $81 million in federal help.”
He said instead, the county slashed the amount to $30 million to cities in Miami-Dade County without prior notice.
“There are a lot of people talking a lot of stuff that they really don’t know what they’re talking about,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said. “This money is meant to go to the people of Miami-Dade County. It’s not meant to go to the governments of Miami-Dade County.”
Suarez stated the county never rejected an offer.
“We’re not going to be able to use [it] to pay our firefighters, to pay our police officers that are on the frontline of COVID,” he said. “That’s money that we could use to avoid having to raise taxes and fees on our residents. They have taken all that money and given it away to whoever they want to, and they have negotiated in complete bad faith.”
As a result of the record number of COVID-19 related deaths statewide, 10 hospitals across South Florida, like Jackson Memorial Hospital, launched a PSA media campaign to hammer home the message of wearing a mask, hand-washing and social distancing.
Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber focused on one of the challenges of containing the spread.
“People need to have a sense of urgency that this is important,” he said. “That’s how they’re going to lean into wearing the masks, the physical distancing and when they hear the governor and they hear the president saying, ‘Don’t worry. This is fine. Go out, you don’t have to wear a mask. Open up the economy,’ they believe that maybe this is a green light to do whatever you want. A lot of us fear we’re beginning to normalize something that should never be normalized.”
Gelber has also asked the state to improve contact tracing in the county.
In Miami, Suarez said 167 tickets were handed out for not complying with face-covering mandates and 30 businesses were shut down for not following guidelines.
“We have issued 167 tickets for not wearing a mask, 59 of them were written warnings, 41 were $50 tickets, and 67 were $100 tickets,” he said.
Gimenez reacted to Suarez’s comments Tuesday afternoon. He said it is on the county to manage the funds and to reimburse cities for COVID-related expenses.
“Start giving us your invoices,” he said. “We’ll be happy to start reimbursing you for those things. Cities want some kind of a blank check from Miami-Dade. That’s not going to happen. Nobody called me and said ‘Let’s talk about this.’ They just want a news conference, and now, they’re threatening us with a lawsuit. That’s not the way you — I went to negotiating school. Miami-Dade County has never said that we’re not going to be reimbursing the cities for COVID-19 eligible expenses.”
Officials in Broward County are also cracking down on non-compliance with a focus on large gatherings.
“We’ve seen several different businesses throughout our community have been shut down on a 24-hour basis,” Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony said. “We have the ability to not only just to break up the crime patterns we’ve been seeing but we’re also helping reduce the spread of COVID-19. About two weeks ago, I think I made it clear that I’ve seen how this thing is connecting anytime we’re having large gatherings of 100, 150-plus people, it’s crystal clear we’re not seeing any compliance of CDC recommendations and therefore more people will contract this virus.”
Meanwhile, new COVID-19 testing sites continue to open throughout South Florida.
Children of all ages can get tested at Curtis Park for free, starting next week.
Appointments are necessary and can be made by calling 305-243-2059.
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