MIAMI – Following the newest CDC guidance, Miami-Dade County is requiring masks to be worn by employees and visitors inside all county facilities — vaccinated or not — and residents are strongly recommended to wear masks in large crowds or enclosed spaces, Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Wednesday.
An ominous burst of thunder punctuating the mayor’s announcement at the outdoor news conference.
The mayor didn’t announce any mandates for businesses or restaurants. A state law signed in May gives Gov. Ron DeSantis the power to invalidate local emergency measures put in place during the pandemic, including mask mandates and limitations on business operations.
Levine Cava noted that Miami-Dade’s COVID-19 positivity rate has jumped over 10%. About 75% of the county’s eligible population (12 and older) has been vaccinated against the coronavirus, Levine Cava said, “but all those who are unvaccinated are at extreme risk.”
“We have come too far,” she added. “We can not turn back now. Our economy is just starting to rebound.”
Masks continue to be required while riding public transit and at the airport, per federal guidelines.
County hospitals will also need to submit more frequent reports on their capacity.
Levine Cava made another plea for the community to get vaccinated. “It is the solution,” she said, a message that was then echoed by Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez and County Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz, who himself battled a case of the Delta variant.
WATCH A REPLAY OF THE MAYOR’S NEWS CONFERENCE BELOW
The local leaders voiced a growing frustration as ICU beds fill with mostly unvaccinated COVID-19 patients at a time when there is ample vaccine supply.
“I respect everyone’s rights, but we have to remember as a family, our action or lack of action is affecting other people,” Hernandez said.
With the governor stripping local municipalities from being able to fine mask mandate violators, enforcement in public buildings could be difficult.
“We will do anything we can to of course peacefully enforce the mask mandate,” Levine Cava said.
When it comes to private businesses, some plea to also do their part.
Jacqueline Pirolo, owner of Macchialina, said she reinstated an indoor mask mandate at her Miami Beach restaurant three days ago for staff and guests.
“I think we all have join forces,” Pirolo said. “I think if we band together and we all do it together, the outcome will be that much easier.
“Think back to a year and a half ago when we couldn’t go anywhere we couldn’t work. We couldn’t enjoy our lives. ... Let’s do these little steps and hopefully not go back to that.”
Miami-Dade County reported 11,104 new COVID-19 cases last week, the most in a state that is driving up the national numbers.
“Florida is one of the states that has the highest rate,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said. “It accounts for about 20% of covid cases in the country.”
On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tweaked its guidance, calling for even vaccinated people to return to wearing masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the delta variant is fueling infection surges.
That includes South Florida.
“It is starting to impact our ability to give the level of care that we give to people who don’t necessarily have COVID but all sorts of illnesses,” said Dr. Yvonne Johnson, chief medical officer of Baptist Health’s South Miami Hospital.
“Even if everyone who is unvaccinated made the decision today to go and get vaccinated, it would be five weeks before any of them were full vaccinated, and right now today, we are seeing such tremendous increases in our COVID populations so we need to do something more immediate to address it.”
“I’m personally concerned about people, our students our staff,” said Broward School Board Chair Rosalind Osgood.
For information on where COVID-19 vaccines are available in South Florida, click here.