Miami-Dade explores new ways to stop coronavirus surge in county

Mayor Carlos Gimenez is sending a "surge team" into hot spots with education and protective gear, and he's pursuing hotel rooms for people in need who should be isolating.

MIAMI – On yet another record-breaking day of COVID-19 cases, there was a recognition that more needs to be done to stop the spread in Miami-Dade.

County mayor Carlos Gimenez says he’s dispatching a 100-person “SURGE team” to coronavirus hot spots, delivering a door-to-door education campaign and kits including masks and hand sanitizer.

“It stands for Strategic Urban Response to Guideline Enforcement,” Gimenez said.

Those hotspots include the Brownsville, Little Havana and Allapattah neighborhoods of Miami, and also parts of southern Dade County in the Homestead area. The “SURGE team” will be comprised of members of county’s goodwill ambassadors program and people hired at the start of Phase 1 to help with social distancing enforcement at parks.

“Unfortunately, we seem to be experiencing a second exponential growth in the last two to three weeks, comparable to what we had seen at the end of March and the beginning of April,” said Dr. Zoran Bursac, FIU’s Department of Biostatistics professor and chair.

As Florida reported a record 5,511 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, Miami-Dade County was responsible for 957 of them.

Miami-Dade also had 24 of the state’s 43 new deaths in the past day, and the county reported that a staggering 19.6% of its coronavirus tests from Tuesday came back positive.

In a Zoom news conference Wednesday afternoon, Gimenez highlighted the increasing trend of younger people being diagnosed with COVID-19 in the county, citing a five-fold increase in cases among the 18-35 demographic since mid-March.

He said older, more vulnerable residents should take caution, even suggesting they separate from the younger population.

And in another big first for the county’s response, he announced a plan to work with hospitals and state health officials to possibly provide hotel rooms for farmworkers and others with limited means who are not so sick they need to be admitted but may need to self-isolate until they test negative for the virus

“It’s not time to put down our guard. It’s time to put up our guard,” Gimenez said. “We’re serious. We have an issue. And we’re going to take care of it before it grows.”

Watch a replay of the mayor’s news conference below:

WATCH LIVE: Miami-Dade Mayor Gimenez talks coronavirus case rise

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez holds a Zoom news conference Wednesday after the county reported more than 900 new cases of COVID-19.

Posted by WPLG Local 10 on Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Gimenez said he considered a countywide mask mandate like the one many city mayors proposed, but he feels the current face-covering order, if followed and enforced, is sufficient. The county order requires masks to be work inside public places and also outside when social distancing isn’t possible.

The mayor noted that violating emergency orders is a second-degree misdemeanor, but the county is considering making it a civil citation, so other inspectors beyond police could issue citations.

Gimenez also said the county’s bars and nightclubs will remain closed for the foreseeable future.

“Bars and nightclubs — I don’t even see how you can operate,” he said. “It’s not about staying closed — that’s not what they’re all about.”

Gimenez did not express concern about hospital bed capacity in the county.

Jackson Health System continues to say they have sufficient capacity, with the majority of their patients not needing ICU-level care.

Over at Homestead Hospital, officials say their intensive care unit is now at full capacity, mostly with patients who have tested positive for COVID-19. They are choosing to transfer patients to other hospitals within the Baptist Health network.


Coronavirus hospitalizations surging in Miami-Dade, with younger patients too

Masks becoming mandatory in these Miami-Dade cities after coronavirus ‘spike’

About the Authors:

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."