MIAMI – As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in South Florida, concerns over whether we may be forced to shut down again are also rising.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said Wednesday that enforcement of safety guidelines will be increased, with violating businesses shut down.
“Rest assured if you are a business owner and decide that it is not your problem, we’re going to make it your problem because our education campaign is now over,” Gimenez said. “Businesses that are not abiding by the rule will be shut down by the Miami-Dade Police.”
As for another stay-at-home order, City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez says he views that as a last resort that he doesn’t feel is necessary yet — but it can’t be ruled out.
“I don’t think there’s any elected official on the planet, not one, that could tell you that there’s no circumstances under which we wouldn’t consider a closure,” said Suarez, who himself battled the coronavirus early in the outbreak.
Florida reported another record 3,207 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday. The rate of positive tests has also climbed this week.
Gimenez posted a video message in which he threatened to shut down county businesses that don’t follow the orders to keep customers safe.
“We’re seeing some people getting a little too comfortable not wearing masks when they go to stores or restaurants and not following social distancing rules,” Gimenez said. “We expect businesses to monitor those situations and not let that happen.”
Gimenez said that “if you see a person or a business who is not following the rules, call 305-4-POLICE, report it so that we can follow up.”
Violation of an official order is second-degree misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500 and/or imprisonment for up to 180 days.
Since the first executive order, Miami-Dade police say they have done more than 378,000 business checks, and issued over 1,000 warnings.
As for why we’ve seen the increase in cases, Suarez says he thinks it’s a combination of more testing, large crowds gathering for protests, and people not following social distancing guidelines.
“We’ve done tens of thousands of inspections, but clearly people still send images and videos, and particularly those [businesses] who are still closed that are upset they’re still closed while others are open and doing things they shouldn’t do,” the Miami mayor said.
Gov. Ron DeSantis was firm in saying Tuesday that the state will push forward with its reopening plans.
Suarez said stay-at-home orders have already proven to be an effective tool in slowing the virus’ spread, hence the thinking that they could be used again if the numbers don’t head in a better direction.
“We have to maintain that tool in our toolbox,” he said. “We know that it’s an effective tool, because we saw the numbers and analyzed the data. Pre-closing we were increasing at a rate of 35 cases per day. After we closed we started immediately decreasing at a rate of 13 cases per day, so we know its an effective tool. It’s also devastating in terms of the economy.”
Suarez, whose city reopened more slowly than most others in South Florida, noted that many people and businesses are just starting to get back on their feet economically, and others are still desperate to open and return to work.
“We’re not going backwards [right now] and we don’t really want to go backwards or tend to go backwards if we can avoid it,” Suarez said, “understanding that we also have historic unemployment and that the people who are employed are making a fraction of what they were making in the past.”
.@MiamiMayor Francis Suarez says he is concerned over the rising number of #COVID19 cases in Florida, but he isn’t ready to shut down the city again. @WPLGLocal10 https://t.co/Pq104emkj2 pic.twitter.com/cOhw4L8vDf— Ian Margol (@IanMargolWPLG) June 17, 2020
Reporter Christina Vazquez contributed to this report.