Warnings issued after reopenings to people not wearing masks

Miami Beach officials said first day of easing restrictions saw people refusing to follow rules

A Miami Beach commissioner didn't get much support when he pitched opening the beach for limited hours. Rangers are still trying to get people to follow the rules and wear masks in the parks.

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – South Florida knows it won’t be allowed to reopen business at the start of next week with the rest of the state, and the question on everybody’s minds remains: When will that time come?

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez said Friday that he’s working with groups representing museums, restaurants, retail shops, salons and more ― and hopes they’ll have better news pretty soon.

“The good news is we continue to tamp down the virus,” Giménez said. “The number of hospitalizations has started to slow, so there is light at the end of this COVID tunnel, but it will be mean working differently, and that’s why this is a new normal.”

Miami Beach commissioners held a special meeting Friday morning to discuss numerous issues related to the novel coronavirus and the city’s reopening.

Among the topics were extending the city’s emergency stay-at-home order to May 14, authorizing the city to continue to pay for furloughed workers’ medical benefits and discussing a recovery and reopening plan.

Miami Beach Commissioner Ricky Arriola proposed a resolution to request permission from Giménez to open the beaches from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., but no other commissioners would second the motion. Arriola was visibly frustrated.

“This body doesn’t have the courage and the trust of our residents to go walk on the beach or go for a swim. It’s disgusting,” Arriola said.

Meanwhile, Miami Beach officials said it was a rough first day back in some of the reopened parks Wednesday because some people refused to follow the rules.

Park rangers issued 652 warnings Wednesday to people who weren’t wearing face masks, had to remove 145 people from parks after closing time and issued 23 social-distancing warnings.

Another 899 face-covering warnings and 10 social-distancing warnings were given Thursday, with 76 people asked to leave the parks after closing time. (The city’s full rules can be seen here.)

City Manager Jimmy Morales said if people don’t follow the rules the city may have to shut certain areas down again. Mayor Dan Gelber said violators are endangering other people and should treat the orders seriously.

On Friday, Assistant City Manager Eric Carpenter said during the beginning stages of reopening, city officials will be focusing on education rather than enforcement.

The question remains: How and when will we know it’s the right time to reopen even more.

Miami Beach brought in Dr. J. Glenn Morris Jr. from the University of Florida’s emerging pathogens institute to try to answer that.

“We’re going to need to develop a system that allows economic activity to resume and continue but does not get us into the situation where we are threatening our medical facilities with a tremendous explosive number of cases,” Morris said.

During the meeting, commissioners also discussed the new COVID-19 testing site at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

The location is the first in the city that will be available to walk-up or drive-through patients.

A total of 400 tests will be received daily at the testing site.

During a roundtable discussion Thursday with Gimenez and City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, Gelber said he does not want to rush to reopen businesses only to have another outbreak occur.

He said they are consulting with medical experts and one of his prime focuses right now is on contact tracing to prevent further spread of the virus.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Contact tracing is part of the process of supporting patients with suspected or confirmed infection. In contact tracing, public health staff work with a patient to help them recall everyone with whom they have had close contact during the timeframe while they may have been infectious.”

ALSO SEE: Re-Open Florida Task Force releases 3-phased plan to reopen state

About the Authors:

Ian Margol joined the Local 10 News team in July 2016 as a general assignment reporter. Born in Miami Beach and raised in Broward County, Ian is thrilled to be back home in South Florida.

Amanda Batchelor is the Digital Executive Producer for Local10.com.