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Broward issues mask mandate as long lines await COVID tests

Face coverings must be worn in county-run buildings starting Friday

Broward's new mask measure starts Friday
Broward's new mask measure starts Friday

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – With COVID-19 cases roughly doubling every nine days in Broward, according to the county mayor, lines at a testing site were taking 2-3 hours to get through Thursday morning.

Sky 10 flew over Mills Pond Park in Fort Lauderdale, where cars snaked around the area.

Residents coming for drive-thru COVID tests were urged to arrive with a full tank of gas in their car, working air conditioning, water, snacks and necessary medicine because of the long wait.

It comes as Broward is putting in an administrative order requiring anyone going into a county-run or county-owned building to wear a face mask, effective Friday.

Miami-Dade County announced a similar measure Wednesday.

“They’re our buildings,” Broward Mayor Steve Geller said. “We have the right to protect our staff, and we have law enforcement at every building we have so we have ways of enforcing that.”

Despite Geller’s desperate pleas for people to get vaccinated and wear face masks, he says the county can’t implement mandates beyond county-run facilities because of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ order from May.

“I fundamentally disagree with the governor,” Geller said. “I think that you need to pay more attention to the life and safety concerns. I wish the governor would spend more attention at strongly urging vaccinations as opposed to saying ‘we will die before we put masks on,’ because unfortunately that can be taken literally of ‘yeah, don’t put your mask on and you may get your wish and die.’”

Geller said hospitalization rates have jumped dangerously, and that the people who are being hospitalized are mostly in their 20s, 30s and 40s — almost all of them unvaccinated.

Broward Health reports that of its 217 COVID-19 patients, about 95% are unvaccinated.

Memorial Healthcare System says that of its 385 COVID-19 patients, 99% are unvaccinated.

COVID testing lines in Broward are 2-3 hours long
COVID testing lines in Broward are 2-3 hours long

Last week, Broward reported 6,105 new COVID-19 cases and a positivity rate of 10.9% in the latest data available from the state. Only Miami-Dade and Duval counties had more new cases.

In response to the surge in cases, Broward County is also increasing its testing capabilities.

The idea is to prevent major backups like those seen at Mills Pond Park.

Valeria Clamens was among the people getting tested Thursday.

Masks will be mandatory in Broward-run buildings
Masks will be mandatory in Broward-run buildings

“I’m kind of coming down with a cold and I’m having a few symptoms, so we just wanted to check and make sure it’s not COVID,” she said.

For Broward County COVID testing information, click here.

For vaccine information in Broward, click here.


About the Authors:

Ian Margol joined the Local 10 News team in July 2016 as a general assignment reporter. Born in Miami Beach and raised in Broward County, Ian is thrilled to be back home in South Florida.

David Selig is the Digital Executive Producer at WPLG, overseeing Local10.com.