Miami-Dade County mayor defends closing indoor dining after week of push back

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez (WPLG)

MIAMI, Fla. – Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez faced a week of criticism and push back after announcing additional restrictions as the county deals with the latest surge in COVID-19 spikes and the most coronavirus cases in the state.

The county’s city mayors, all 25 of the Miami-Dade County League of Cities Mayors Coalition, were vocal and stated publicly Thursday, and in a letter that they disapproved of Gimenez’s issuing of an executive order prohibiting indoor dining at restaurants, and for a few reasons.

In another show of push back, restaurant owners and supporters gathered for a protest outside of the American Airlines Arena on Friday demanding scientific data. One protester held a sign that read “No science, no closures.”

Gimenez’s statement defended and clarified his decision. As far as the restaurant closures, he made the point that restaurants are the “only places where people need to remove their masks to eat and drink.”

“With our current positivity rate throughout the county, it would be irresponsible and outright derelict for me to allow indoor dining at this time.”

Regarding science, Gimenez had a response to those who were saying he hadn’t considered data when limited restaurant dining.

“As it is, the positivity rate means that one of every four or even one of every three diners are carrying the virus, whether they know it or not, and the spread is airborne with studies showing longer periods of time where the contagion remains suspended. That is the science.”

The letter from the Mayors Coalition sent Thursday said the group had “passed a unanimous resolution disapproving of the County Mayor’s executive order . . . City mayors are requesting future decisions be made based on scientific evidence and data.” The coalition’s resolution also requested that “moving forward, city mayors and industry leaders should be consulted as part of the decision making process.”

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez told reporters Friday that he spoke to Gimenez by telephone to discuss what can be done to slow coronavirus infections.

“There has to be communication,” he said. “You can’t make a decision of the magnitude that was made without communication. Secondly, we are going to need each other going forward.”

Gimenez’s Friday evening statement was also an attempt to clarify what he felt was a misunderstanding — that he hadn’t blamed restaurants for the current spike.

“I’ve explained many times that the spike was caused by various factors — all involving social gatherings without masks and little to no social distancing, whether at private parties at people’s homes, graduation parties, Memorial Day weekend parties and street protests, as well as at restaurants that turned into bars with people not practicing social distancing during the month of June.”

The Amendment to Emergency Order 26-20, which Gimenez made effective on Thursday, said restaurants could only host on-site dining outdoors. After 10 p.m., they can only provide take out and delivery service.

[To see the Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s complete Friday statement, click here.]

About the Author:

Michelle F. Solomon is the podcast producer/reporter/host of Local 10's original, true-crime podcast The Florida Files and a digital journalist for Local