The city of Miami Beach declared a state of emergency Saturday after thousands of people descended on the spring break hotspot, as the state tries to balance drawing tourism and COVID-19 precautions.
Officials also set a curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. starting Saturday night, with tourists expected to remain indoors during the curfew hours. It’s unclear how long the curfew will last, though Mayor Dan Gelber said in a news conference it would be in effect for at least 72 hours.
Overwhelming and out-of-control crowds were blamed for the response. Interim City Manager Raul Aguila told the Miami Herald the “crowds are in the thousands.”
“We’re at capacity,” Aguila said.
Spring break partying – Miami South beach. This isn’t going to end well next month. #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/8VNplhYvbO— Eric Feigl-Ding (@DrEricDing) March 20, 2021
The decision came after weeks of unruly spring break crowds clashing with police.
Spring breakers have damaged restaurants, brawled in the streets, and gathered without masks or social distancing, officials said. On March 12, police fired pepper spray balls to disperse a South Beach crowd, which was captured in a widely shared video.
Florida has been working to increase tourism, the state’s top industry, after the pandemic resulted in millions of dollars in losses, the Associated Press reported.
But local officials have also taken steps to mitigate the partying, including sending a warning text to tourists that said “Vacation Responsibly or Be Arrested,” according to the AP.
Florida in September lifted all COVID-19 restrictions, a directive that allowed all businesses to operate at full capacity.
More recently, Gov. Ron DeSantis shot down the notion of instituting a lockdown in his state, despite a warning from President Joe Biden that there might have to be additional coronavirus restrictions put in place if the public isn’t “vigilant.”
“To even contemplate doing any type of lockdown, honestly it’s insane,” DeSantis said last week during a press conference.
“That’s not gonna happen in the state of Florida,” he continued. “We’re gonna continue doing what works, but under no circumstances would we entertain anything of the sort.”
Coronavirus cases in Florida peaked in January 2021 at about 19,500 new cases per day. And just on Saturday, Florida hit a new pandemic milestone: 2 million positive coronavirus cases, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
At least 12% of the state’s population has been vaccinated, according to JHU data.
Source: Business Insider
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