Miami-Dade mayors disagree with Gimenez’s order to close indoor dining

Contract tracers have not specifically identified gyms, restaurants as problem areas, Miami mayor says

MIAMI – The mayor of Miami-Dade County walked back his decision to close down gyms and fitness centers on Tuesday, and his initial announcement on reclosures caught the mayor of Miami and other local leaders by surprise.

During a stop Wednesday at a food distribution site in Little Haiti, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said he was never consulted about the order before it was signed.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez held a virtual meeting Tuesday with more than a dozen local gym owners, which led to him reconsidering closing fitness centers.

“The new update is we have to wear a mask 24/7 in and out of training at all times and [stay] 10 feet apart,” Stunna’s Fit owner Gabriel Varona said.

The last-minute change does not affect the rollback for restaurants, which will now be limited to delivery, takeout and outdoor dining beginning Thursday.

Suarez told Local 10 News on Wednesday that he hasn’t spoken to the county mayor in nearly three weeks.

“As a mayor of Dade County, when you implement an order, it affects all 34 cities. And so, I think he has an obligation to communicate with the city,” Suarez said.

As for whether he agrees with the county order, Suarez said he does not, considering contract tracers have not specifically identified gyms and restaurants as problem areas.

“We’re not getting any information that we need yet from the contract tracers to justify the decision,” Suarez said. “These are decisions that are very impactful, they’re very comprehensive, and there needs to be a lot of consultation and justification before making a decision of that magnitude.”

On Tuesday, Gimenez and the governor raised eyebrows when they seemed to disagree over who was responsible for hiring more contact tracers.

Gimenez announced Thursday that he has signed a $14 million agreement with the state to add an additional 250 contact tracers to Miami-Dade through the end of the year.

Gimenez signed his order on reclosures late Tuesday, and it will now take effect on Thursday.

In addition to closing down indoor dining, the order also shuts down entertainment venues, including casinos and concert halls with the exception of tribe-owned establishments.

During a news conference Thursday, the mayors of Miami, Miami Beach, Miami Gardens and Hialeah expressed frustration with the lack of communication and transparency from the county.

Hundreds of people wrote to Gimenez, pleading for him to not re-close the restaurant industry, which collectively has spent millions of dollars installing plexiglass, putting down social distancing stickers, giving masks to employees and implementing other safety measures to adhere to CDC guidelines.

Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez said there isn’t enough evidence that restaurants are a hotspot for coronavirus transmission.

“Right now, the decisions they’re making are based on what?” he asked. “And this idea about closing restaurants without having that information, all we’re doing is killing 80% of the restaurants here in Miami-Dade County. We need to have serious conversations and real leadership from the top to bottom.”

Suarez said a shelter-in-place order is always on the table if the community can’t control the surge of coronavirus cases, but it’s something all the mayors are trying to avoid because of the devastating effect it would have on the economy.

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