MIAMI – Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez announced he is instituting a countywide curfew beginning Friday.
The curfew will be daily from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. and, Gimenez said, it will take effect until further notice. Essential workers, including food delivery service workers, first responders, hospital workers, and media are exempt.
Just before the Fourth of July weekend is in full swing, Gimenez said: “The curfew is meant to stop people from venturing out and hanging out with friends in groups, which has shown to be spreading the virus rapidly.”
The mayor also signed an order Thursday that will roll back the reopening of entertainment facilities, including casinos, bowling alleys, movie theaters, arcades, and strip clubs. Many of the casinos only reopened on June 10. Tribal casinos are exempt from county jurisdiction, so their officials have the option to decide if they will remain open.
Face covering mandates were the topic earlier Thursday. At a press conference in Liberty City, Gimenez stressed that wearing a face covering was not an option in the county and the key to preventing another shutdown.
On Thursday, the mayor expanded the mask mandate first ordered in April that face coverings must be worn outdoors in public throughout the county, regardless if social distancing can be maintained.
“Wearing a mask is actually a symbol of respect,” Gimenez said. “The respect that I have for you, and you have for me.”
Previously, people outdoors in the county did not need to wear a face covering outside if they could practice social distancing by staying six feet apart. That officially changed today.
“The message is this: You have to assume that everybody has the virus. That’s why we’re asking you to wear the mask,” Gimenez said.
Local leaders are not mincing words. We are in a critical stage, they say.
“If you look at every metric, we are going in the wrong direction,” Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said. “There’s more virus, there’s more hospitalizations.”
Gelber said that the moment they feel the hospital system is “overrun,” that is what would prompt a hard stop, and a return to stay-at-home orders.
“What we are trying to do is avoid barreling into the inalterable need to shelter in place, because we don’t want to do that, it really destroys the economy,” he said.
Gimenez was in the Miami neighborhood of Liberty City, one of the county’s COVID-19 hotspots, where surge teams are going door-to-door as part of the ongoing outreach strategy to hand out protective items and education materials.
Gimenez said the county is also working with the state’s health department to get more contact tracers here.
Heading into the July 4 holiday weekend, South Florida is seeing a worrisome rise in the percentage of positive cases and leaders are monitoring the capacity of local ICU beds.
While maintaining that he feels there is sufficient hospital capacity, Gimenez stressed that following the “new normal” rules could be the difference between being able to move forward — or being forced to scale back business.
“No one wants to go back to close non-essential businesses,” he said. “I certainly do not. I know how much suffering that has cause for working families. So please, everyone, let’s follow the rules. No one enjoys wearing a mask, but that’s what we need to do to save lives.”
Or, as Gelber put it: “What’s more American than sacrificing for a family member or friend or a stranger? And that I think is what people should be thinking about.”
Gimenez also went on to say that President Donald Trump should wear a mask if he comes to the county under its current rules. The presidential debate at Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts is Oct. 15.
For a reminder of the other new orders the county and cities have put in place heading into the holiday weekend, click here.
(Local 10.com’s Michelle Solomon contributed to this story.)