Miami Beach, Miami mayor weigh in on Gov.’s surprise decision to ease restrictions

MIAMI, Fla. – Miami Beach’s mayor wrote a letter to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis only hours after a press conference where the governor told Florida that it could move into Phase 3, accelerating the pace of openings after months of closures and slow reopenings because of COVID-19.

Dan Gelber said he needed clarification and that’s what his Friday letter requested.

“We were opening businesses and we need to open up our economy. We need to get people back to work, but we need to do it competently. One of the things that the governor did was he just told everyone we are opening,” Gelber said.

“He also said he won’t allow enforcement of a mask mandate anymore, which is consistent with President Donald Trump’s message,” Gelber told Local 10′s Michael Putney on WPLG’s Sunday news program “This Week In South Florida.”

Gelber calls the entire idea “incomprehensible” and “a deadly mix.”

Miami’s mayor said he had been grateful that throughout the pandemic, Florida’s governor was allowing cities to go at their own pace. In an interview with CNN, Francis Suarez said: “We had seen clashes between governors and mayors across the county and it was something I was praising him for,” Suarez said.

Suarez said what the city of Miami was doing was working. “We had been doing things very methodically. We got our caseload down. We were gradually opening and the mask-in-public rule we were heavily enforcing.”

The governor’s latest executive order states that local authorities cannot issue COVID-19 orders that prevent businesses from operating or stop people from working.

It also requires restaurants to open to at least half capacity. If the county wants to restrict a business to less than 100 percent reopening, according to DeSantis’ executive order, they must explain why the limitation needs to be put in place.

The order also eliminates any COVID-19 related penalties or fines, which doesn’t specifically point to citations for mask wearing that Miami-Dade County had been enforcing but it obviously falls under that restriction.

Miami Beach was one of the first to enforce a mask mandate.

Gelber hasn’t shied away from his views that he sees politics in play by the Republican governor just before the presidential election.

“The problem with the governor is he wants everyone to feel this is fine. Ignoring it won’t make it go away. I guess they are hoping a surge that happens will happen after election day,” Gelber, a Democrat, said.

Suarez, a Republican, said that the quick entry into the Phase 3 reopening is that it has presented significant handicaps on decisions, based on the knowledge of their communities, how to regulate openings.

“We’ll see in the next couple of weeks. But if he’s wrong, it is going to be a difficult time, because it will also be in the middle of the flu season.”

Florida’s population is 21.48 million as estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau in January 2020. The total amount of residents who have been tested in the state of Florida, according to Johns Hopkins' University are 5,239,008 as of Sunday, Sept. 27.

In Johns Hopkins’ University’s Top 50 cases by county, Miami-Dade remains the second highest county behind Los Angeles with a confirmed number of COVID-19 cases. Los Angeles has 266,988 confirmed cases with Miami-Dade at 169,144 cases. Broward County has the seventh most confirmed cases at 76,700.

On Sunday, Florida reported 1,822 new cases of COVID-19 and has a total of 700,564 confirmed cases since the start of the outbreak. According to Johns Hopkins, the state’s fatality rate was 2.01%.

RELATED: South Florida bars packed on the second day of Phase 3 reopening

(See the Governor’s Executive Order)

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