The city of Miami Beach is currently in a state of emergency due to concerns of large crowds leading to an increase in COVID-19 cases. Tourists, including many spring breakers, have flooded the area over the past few weeks. Increased restrictions began on February 22nd to prepare for the spring break influx, but these measures were clearly insufficient. Partying and large gatherings continued despite the pandemic and the rules in place, so city officials ultimately had to impose the state of emergency and a mandatory 8 pm curfew on March 21st. These protocols will remain in place until April 11th.
Pictures and videos of the streets, bars, and clubs in Miami look like they are from before the pandemic. Interim City Manager Raul Aguila, who officially declared the state of emergency, said the crowds gathering looked like a rock concert. Officials in Miami Beach reported that more than 50 arrests occurred last weekend, and more than 1,000 arrests have been made since February 3rd. The Miami Beach police reported that less than half of the arrests have been Florida residents, so the effects of spring break are clear.
In addition to the state of emergency and curfew, Aguila also shut down overnight access to some causeways that lead to the barrier island off of Miami, as this area typically has a lively nightlife and attracts tourists with its luxury hotels. Ocean Drive, Miami’s main strip, is now only available to residents, hotel guests and employees, and closed to vehicular and pedestrian traffic. This area typically has sidewalk-cafes, but those are also shut down for the time being. As for restaurants, a takeout-only policy comes into effect at 8:00 every night.
Throughout the pandemic, Miami-Dade County has not been a model city for safety with the coronavirus, and unfortunately, spring break is only making that worse. The county had the second-highest number of COVID-19 cases per capita in Florida at the start of this week. Governor Ron DeSantis has been a major proponent of opening up Florida and rolling back restrictions on establishments. He imposed a ban on fining people and businesses who violate local pandemic protocols. His mentality and policies helped enable the chaos that erupted in Miami Beach and led to the current state of emergency.
With the recent success of COVID-19 vaccines and distribution, there is much more hope surrounding the state of the pandemic. Stories like this one in Miami are unfortunate and slightly discouraging, especially because there finally seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel. Hopefully, the intensity of the new orders in place will be effective in changing the behavior of Miami’s spring break tourists.