South Florida mayor asks governor for statewide mask mandate

Governor participates in coronavirus round-table discussion

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis puts on his mask as he leaves a news conference at Jackson Memorial Hospital, Monday, July 13, 2020, in Miami. DeSantis acknowledged Monday that the new coronavirus is spreading and urged people to take precautions such as wearing masks in public places, social distancing and avoiding crowds. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) (Wilfredo Lee, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

MIAMI, Fla. – Among the requests from Miami-Dade County mayors when it comes to Florida’s coronavirus response is a statewide mask mandate.

A round-table discussion took place Tuesday and gave the mayors a chance to provide a status update on their local positivity rates and hospital capacity and it let them express their concerns to Gov. Ron DeSantis.

A top doctor on Monday warned that Miami is becoming the “epicenter of the pandemic” and the situation there is “extremely grave.” Officials said that as of Tuesday, there are about 2,000 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in the county. For perspective, there were about 600 to 800 patients hospitalized there when the lockdown was initiated in mid-March.

Miami Mayor Francis X. Suarez said if things don’t improve within the next few weeks, it’s possible that some of the reopenings could be rolled back.

“I will tell you that you know there is a significant amount of pressure right now for us to shut down at some level and I think we are sort of at a critical juncture, but if things do not improve quickly over the next week or two, I think we’re going to be under significant amount of pressure to do something like that,” Suarez said.

DeSantis agreed that Florida’s coronavirus situation is at a “critical point” and right now the Miami area is the focal point of the state’s response.

As the efforts continue, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said consistency in messaging is key, which is why he implored DeSantis to issue a statewide mask mandate. He hoped that kind of measure would create a sense of urgency and make residents realize how important it is to wear a mask.

“We’ve had disagreements about whether we have a state mandate for a mask. The only reason I thought it’s important, is I think it will tell people, ‘You have to do this.' Not just urging you to do it -- but it’s urgent that you do it,” Gelber said.

Other requests mayors had for the governor included the following:

  • More contact tracers. One leader noted that much of the spread is coming from social activity and from within households.
  • A long-term plan that would include parameters for when another shutdown could become unavoidable and how to go about reopening safely.
  • More help enforcing the travel ban that requires travelers from the Tri-State area to self-isolate for two weeks upon arrival in Florida.
  • Further guidance on the upcoming academic semester since so many parents are concerned. Right now, schools are required to reopen for in-person classes in August.
  • Making sure the data provided by the Florida Department of Health is consistent with numbers provided by local health departments.
  • Ensuring that decisions made across the region are consistent.

As of Tuesday, 34,334 of the state’s 291,629 cumulative total COVID-19 patients are located in Miami-Dade County.

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