Miami cities grapple with enforcing mask mandate as Florida Gov. continues to not allow fines

MIAMI, Fla. – There’s current renewed tough talk on enforcement on New Normal guidelines happening in Miami-Dade County with another coronavirus case surge and and the possibly of COVID-19 spread heading into the holiday weekend.

Miami’s Mayor Francis Suárez said Friday he is seeking to mitigate a worrisome surge in cases that threaten the health of community members and the local economy.

“We are focusing on enforcement this week,” Suarez promised.

The City of Miami is once again stepping up enforcement on businesses caught not following New Normal rules. In the last week Racket in Wynwood, Lav V and Redbar in Brickell, were all shut down.

“The police came and we were shut down for 24 hours,” Rebar’s Antar Sosa of said.

Venue owners like Sosa are asking that guests do their part and exercise personal responsibility.

“Please help us to stay open. Wear masks, don’t congregate. Try to see our perspective. We are trying to stay open so they can enjoy our venue.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis extended a September order on Tuesday that ushered South Florida into Phase 3 and continues to strip local governments from being able to collect fines from individuals caught violating the in-public mask mandate. All this amid a worrisome rise in cases and more hospital admissions of patients with coronavirus.

To safeguard the health of its citizens and the economy, Miami Beach police have been instructed to hand out face masks to anyone not wearing one and who don’t have a mask in their possession, and issue citations for those violating the mask mandate.

“We need to let people know they have to wear masks and (we will) give citations even if we can’t collect the fine right now,” said Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber.

Suárez said an upcoming bipartisan Miami-Dade County League of Cities meeting is planned to talk about how to work with DeSantis to regain some local control of COVID-19 mitigation tools.

“We are trying to create a coalition, so maybe if I can’t get the governor’s attention, maybe a coalition can get the governor’s attention,” Suárez said.

Former state prosecutor David Weinstein said the strategy of strength in numbers is a good one.

“With that unified front, they will be able to show the governor that the municipalities are standing together and they are with each other and they are going to enforce local ordinances. They have home rule power under our constitution and under our charters,” Weinstein said.

When it comes to enforcement for the individual mask mandate in the city of Miami, Suárez said that he is going to keep a close watch on what happens in Miami Beach. If the data shows that the strategy of issuing citations to increase self compliance works even though they cannot issue fines because of the governor’s orders at this point, he might consider that idea in his city.

About the Author:

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."