Masks now mandatory in Miami-Dade as county hits 1,000 deaths

County also rules that restaurants must close earlier each night

Miami Beach has announced a nightly curfew, and Miami-Dade County will force most restaurants to close on-site dining at midnight.

MIAMI – As Miami-Dade County reached 1,000 deaths from COVID-19, local leaders took new steps Wednesday to prevent a hospital surge and to hopefully avoid stepping backward into business closures.

That included county Mayor Carlos Gimenez announcing Wednesday night that facial coverings are now mandatory in all public spaces, inside and out.

“After consulting with the CEOs of South Florida hospitals and Florida Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Mary Mayhew this afternoon, I have decided to issue an emergency order requiring masks in all public spaces inside and outdoors throughout Miami-Dade County,” Gimenez said in a news release. “The amendment to this order that I plan to sign will expand on the use of masks outdoors, which have been required when social distancing of six feet is not possible. The amendment will now require masks to always be used outdoors with few exceptions. The exclusions to the use of masks apply only to those with respiratory conditions that make it difficult to cover their mouth and nose, people doing strenuous activities, such as jogging, and children under the age of 2, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control.”

Earlier Wednesday, the county commission worked to create a pathway for civil penalties to help with enforcement of their “new normal” rules — passing the special agenda item on its first reading.

“I would like to get this ordinance second reading done as soon as possible, so then our inspectors, not just our police officers, can start handing out citations to those that are not complying with the rules,” Gimenez said. “And we need that tool.

While the idea of closing some nonessential businesses was discussed, Gimenez still believes the county needs to give the current rules a chance, and he reiterated enforcement of those rules.

“Everything that we did to reopen the economy here, to reopen businesses, was done with our medical experts,” Gimenez said. “And the measures that we took would guarantee a level of safety. We never said it was going to be 100% as more and more people go out and interact.

“It’s compliance with the rules,” the mayor added. “If everybody complies with the rules, then it is safe to go outside and it’s safe to conduct business.”

That commission meeting came as Miami-Dade reached 1,000 deaths from COVID-19 on Wednesday.

The county also ordered that, starting tonight, restaurants and other food-service establishments with seating for more than eight people must close their on-site dining between 12:01 a.m. and 6 a.m. each day. Those restaurants can provide takeout or delivery services.

“And the reason was we were seeing images and we saw reports of some of these restaurants that were converting basically into nightclubs after hours and contributed to this bump,” Gimenez said.

Meanwhile, the city of Miami Beach on Wednesday issued an order that sets a 12:30 a.m. curfew and closes restaurants at midnight and liquor sales at retail locations at 8 p.m.

In the City of Miami, the penalty system for businesses caught not following the rules just got tougher.

First offense for non-compliance is now a 10-day closure, second offense is 15 days, and the third offense calls for a 30-day shutdown, plus subjecting the business owner to possible arrest.

While Gimenez has largely kept the county’s reopening plans in a holding pattern, he has closed beaches for the July 4 weekend to limit crowds.

The county also announced a new executive order Wednesday that will limit hotel pool hours and alcohol consumption.

Miami-Dade is limiting hotel pool hours and alcohol consumption over the July 4 holiday weekend. (WPLG)

Jackson pauses elective procedures

Meanwhile, Jackson Health System announced that it will limit inpatient surgeries as it watches hospital beds and intensive-care units fill up.

“As Jackson Health System continues to see a steady increase in the number of COVID-19 patients being admitted to our hospitals, we will limit inpatient surgeries and procedures to emergency and urgent cases only, effective next Monday, July 6,” Jackson said in a statement. “Our clinical leadership has been working diligently throughout this pandemic to ensure that safety of our patients and employees is paramount.”

Memorial Healthcare System hospitals will also only perform emergency or urgent surgeries, as well as outpatient procedures that don’t require hospitalization. (That limitation does not include Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital.)

Jackson revealed on the commission call that the infection rate of its healthcare workers has risen from 7% to 12%.

The infection rate among Miami-Dade County Fire Rescue workers has also increased.

WATCH BELOW | Jackson Health System news conference on Wednesday:

Jackson Health System holds COVID-19 news conference

WATCH LIVE: Jackson Health System holds COVID-19 news conference

Posted by WPLG Local 10 on Wednesday, July 1, 2020

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."