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How much will Miami-Dade tolerate rising coronavirus numbers?

Miami Beach Mayor: How much COVID-19 sickness and death are we willing to accept?
Miami Beach Mayor: How much COVID-19 sickness and death are we willing to accept?

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – Miami-Dade County’s hospitals can handle more patients, but as Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber puts it, the real question is how much sickness and death residents are willing to put up with?

“The question becomes, how much are we willing to accept of the virus in the community?” Gelber said Monday. “Because the mere fact we can process two to three times the number of people getting sick doesn’t mean we want to, because a certain number of them are going into ICUs and a portion of those are going to die. So at some point it is not just hospital capacity that is going to govern us, but really our tolerance for this.”

As COVID-19 case numbers continue to surge throughout South Florida, leaders in Miami-Dade County are getting serious about enforcing the county’s mask and social distancing rules.

“First day, or first night, I think we had about 35 (citations),” Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said of new civil penalties. “We closed some businesses. It’s gonna ramp up as we get inspectors up and running.”

Over the weekend, police began handing out fines to both businesses and individuals who were caught in violation of the new rules.

Officers say a total of 115 civil citations were issued; 67 to individuals and 48 to businesses — a much easier enforcement method than pursing criminal charges.

“The last thing you want to do is criminalize people’s lives. We not want to do that, we want to save people’s lives,” Miami-Dade Police Director Alfredo “Freddy” Ramirez said.

This was the first full weekend of the new civil penalty enforcement tool, which means code enforcers can work alongside police to mandate compliance.

“It makes us a lot more nimble in enforcement because we don’t want to criminalize; what we want is compliance,” Ramirez said.

Miami-Dade leaders crack down on violators amid spike in coronavirus cases
Miami-Dade leaders crack down on violators amid spike in coronavirus cases

This past weekend was also the first for a new 8 p.m. curfew in South Beach’s entertainment district.

The enforcement comes as Miami-Dade added more than 2,700 new coronavirus cases on Monday with another seven COVID-19-related deaths.

The escalating cases is one reason doctors decided to open up a new testing site in Miami Lakes on Monday.

“If you haven’t been sick at all, and you have no symptoms, please stay home,” said Dr. Ramon Tallaj, chairman of Somos Community Care.

Tallaj is the founder of Somos, a nonprofit network of immigrant doctors who helped lead the COVID-19 response in New York City’s hard-hit Latino and Black communities.

The group is now bringing their resources to the Miami Lakes Youth Center where they’re offering COVID-19 and antibody testing.

“If you are above 55 years old, 50 to 55, going up, and you get the virus, there’s a big chance you’ll get seriously ill, and you could die,” Tallaj said.

Miami-Dade County posted its new “Mask-up Miami” slogan on social media along with a new logo — landmark buildings in white silhouette on an orange facemask.

Gelber told Local 10′s Christina Vazquez that Miami-Dade County may need to shut down again to reduce community spread of the virus.

“To get our community healthier, to get our contact tracing to a level it will work because the numbers are lower,” he said.

The county is urging residents to participate in a voluntary survey as part of a new community empowerment program to help county leaders secure new data to “identify possible areas of COVID-19 transmittal within our community.”

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."

Trent Kelly is an award-winning multimedia journalist who joined the Local 10 News team in June 2018. Trent is no stranger to Florida. Born in Tampa, he attended the University of Florida in Gainesville, where he graduated with honors from the UF College of Journalism and Communications.