FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Florida's largest county is again severely limiting its restaurants and fully closing gyms and other indoor venues weeks after they reopened because a spike in coronavirus cases is creating a shortage of intensive care unit beds at its hospitals.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said Monday that starting Wednesday, restaurants will be limited to outdoor dining, takeout and delivery service and gyms, banquet halls and short-term vacation rentals like those available on Airbnb will be closed. Bars are already closed statewide and restaurants were limited to 50% capacity indoors.
Gimenez had initially said that restaurants would be closed to all dining but in a statement Monday evening the mayor said that after meeting with medical experts and the restaurant industry group that his emergency order “will allow for outdoor dining, where possible, to continue with restrictions." Those limits include no more than 4 people at a table with appropriate distancing and music to be played at a level that does not require shouting.
Like much of the state, Miami-Dade's restaurants had reopened with capacity and social-distancing restrictions in mid-May, while gyms reopened about a month ago. During that time, the county's daily rate for confirmed cases skyrocketed from about 300 a day to more than 2,000.
Miami-Dade County now has more than 1,600 hospitalized coronavirus patients, double what it had two weeks ago. Of those, 331 are in intensive care and 168 are on ventilators, figures that have also doubled. Miami-Dade has been the state’s hardest-hit area along with its South Florida neighbors, Broward and Palm Beach counties. They have also seen recent spikes.
Dr. David De La Zerda, a pulmonologist at Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital, said if the new infection rate isn't slowed, his hospital soon won’t have enough rooms or ventilators and the staff will be stretched thin.
“COVID patients require more nurses, more respiratory therapists. The nurses need to check on them more often,” De La Zerda said.
Gimenez blamed his county's spike on young adults visiting restaurants and other indoor gathering spots without wearing masks and not practicing social distancing. He also blamed the recent protests over the death of George Floyd while he was being arrested by Minneapolis police. People under 35 are significantly less likely to die from COVID-19 than those over 65, but they can spread the disease to their older family members, co-workers and friends.