COVID puts a lid on lively party town South Beach

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – This Fourth of July in South Beach, police patrolled the streets enforcing night No. 2 of the countywide curfew, designed to limit crowds on what is usually one of the biggest holiday weekends in South Florida.

The 10 p.m. cutoff brought an early end to celebrations.

South Beach’s famed Ocean Drive looked a whole lot different this year, compared to year’s past.

And visitors did react with disappointment.

“I feel like this is the beach, this is nature. We should be able to just walk over there,” Yascy Belton, who was visiting from Philadelphia, said.

The beach was empty after being shut down on Friday, part of a countywide effort to cut down on potential gathering spots after Miami-Dade County has seen record-breaking COVID-19 case numbers. The shoreline is expected to remain closed through at least Tuesday.

[RELATED: Fort Lauderdale celebrates with fireworks but not the usual way]

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez issued a statement on June 26 announcing the beach closures, but not mincing words when he said he would have no problem extending the closure.

“I will be signing an emergency order on Saturday to close all beaches in Miami-Dade County starting Friday, July 3, and ending Tuesday, July 7. The closure may be extended if conditions do not improve and people do not follow New Normal rules requiring masks to be worn always inside commercial establishments and outdoors when social distancing of at least 6 feet is not possible,” the statement said.

Ocean Drive, usually packed with partiers, now making space for businesses to help with social distancing efforts.

“I’m a little bummed by it to be honest,” Victor Edwards said. He came to Miami from Atlanta. “South Beach is known for the beaches, is known for the lounges, the bars, the nightlife.”

Those who were out and about needed to adhere to a countywide mask mandate, which requires face coverings in most situations, even if social distancing is possible.

While some were in compliance, others were clearly out of the loop or just didn’t care about the mandate.

The holiday beach ban is once again impacting businesses that now have to cope with a 10 p.m. countywide curfew, which marks an early end to a holiday that would, at that time, just be getting started.

“We were waiting for this weekend because it was on a Saturday this year, we expected people to start coming on Thursday. I honestly think it was not the right move. I don’t think you stop the pandemic like that, totally,” South Beach business owner Domenico D’addio said.

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