Hialeah mayor left out of DeSantis coronavirus roundtable, calls it ‘a lack of respect'

Hialeah mayor says he was told roundtable was 'invite only' and he wasn't 'on the list'

Mayor Carlos Hernandez said he was told he wasn't on the guest list as other mayors of Miami-Dade cities met with the governor Tuesday. Hernandez has been critical of DeSantis' coronavirus response, particularly in hard-hit Hialeah.

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – A quick glance around the room at Gov. Ron DeSantis’ roundtable with Miami-Dade County mayors on Tuesday showed a glaring omission.

Not present: Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez.

It’s notable, considering Hialeah continues to be a statewide case-leader for COVID-19.

“I think it is a lack of respect for the citizens of Hialeah, the sixth-largest city in the state, the second-largest city in the county,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez says he showed up to the Stephen P. Clark Government Center only to learn from a representative of the governor’s office that the meeting was invite-only and he was not on the list. Hernandez has expressed criticism to aspects of the state’s response to COVID-19.

“I guess because I speak what I think truth is — I don’t have to kiss anybody’s butt like some people do,” Hernandez said. “Does he have a problem with me? Is he such a childish person that he’s letting his feelings get in the way?”

According to census data, Hialeah’s median household income is just over $33,000. The coronavirus has hit the city with a one-two punch: the uptick in positive cases and the economic blow from prevention measures.

Asked why the mayor of one of Miami-Dade’s largest cities did not have a seat at the roundtable, DeSantis said he didn’t personally handle the invitations.

“I didn’t know he wasn’t invited,” DeSantis said. “I am happy to meet with him. Hialeah is a great town. I have a lot of great friends there. I know they had a tough go with some of this outbreak.”

The governor’s office released a formal statement late Tuesday regarding the situation:

“Today’s roundtable at Mayor Gimenez’ office with Governor DeSantis included mayors from large and small municipalities that represent the diverse communities that comprise Miami-Dade County. Although it was not possible to meet with all of the county’s 34 mayors, Governor DeSantis offered to meet with the mayor of Hialeah immediately after today’s roundtable, but the mayor declined.”

Roundtable talk

During Tuesday’s meeting, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said the public needs to hear a unified message from officials, including DeSantis and the president.

He said there also needed to be a sense of urgency coming from officials about the seriousness in taking precautions to stop the spread of the virus.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said experts believe the contagion is occurring mostly at home and reinforced the message of people wearing masks, continuing to practice social distancing and continuing to wash their hands and refraining from touching their faces.

[Watch a replay of the roundtable below]

The mayor said residents also need to treat family members with more care because as people go out into the community they could get infected, and once they are home, it is very easy to spread the virus to others in the household.

“We need to be more responsible,” Gimenez said.

Concerns over the virus, meanwhile, led to another long line of cars Tuesday morning outside the Hard Rock Stadium testing site.

The increased demand comes as doctors issued a dire warning.

“Miami is now the epicenter of the pandemic. What we were seeing in Wuhan six months ago, five months ago — now, we are there,” Dr. Lilian Abbo, Infection Prevention Chief of the Jackson Health System said Monday.

On Tuesday, Miami-Dade County added another 2,000 new coronavirus cases and the county also recorded another 32 COVID-related deaths.

Concerns over COVID-19 led to another long line of cars Tuesday morning outside the Hard Rock Stadium testing site.

The surge in testing is causing a massive backlog and is leaving some people waiting up to a week to find out their results.

“Florida alone, we’ve tested more in one day than some other countries have tested,” DeSantis said Monday.

The governor addressed the problem during a stop Monday at Jackson Memorial Hospital, saying there’s just not enough labs to handle the increased demand.

“They’re getting backed up. They’re getting hundreds of thousands sent every day,” DeSantis said.

Hospital resources also continue to be strained, with the Jackson Health System already at 90 percent capacity.

Executives there have eliminated elective surgeries and are temporarily boosting their staff levels.

An activist seen heckling the governor at Monday’s news conference, accusing him of not doing enough to protect residents and workers, made national headlines.

“Shame on you. You’re an embarrassment,” the activist said.

Some hospital staff members even tried to ask questions, but were told they were not allowed.

“I feel like my voice is not being heard, that I don’t have a channel to vent my frustrations,” United We Dream coordinator Thomas Kennedy said.

Amid the spike in coronavirus cases, the Florida National Guard has been recalled in to a field hospital at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

The field hospital was set up in April and is comprised of 450 hospital beds. Of those, 50 will be for patients who need intensive care.

The 500,000 square foot facility will be run by 180 members of Florida’s National Guard Medical Team.

Amid the spike in coronavirus cases, the Florida National Guard has been recalled in to a field hospital at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

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."

Amanda Batchelor is the Digital Executive Producer for Local10.com.