County halts indoor dining after COVID-19 spike
Thursday, July 16, 2020
As Miami Lakes restaurant and gym owners prepared their businesses to protect customers during the coronavirus pandemic, a silent saboteur was also at work.
Cases of COVID-19 continued to rise in Miami-Dade County, which became the epicenter of the disease in Florida.
After three months of quarantine, with working and schooling happening from homes, restaurants and gyms welcomed customers back in June.
But increases -- in disease positivity rates and hospitalizations – prompted Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez to announce on July 6 that fitness centers and dining spots had to close their doors again, effective July 8.
After blowback from business owners, Gimenez revised his order.
He allowed gyms to stay open if patrons wear masks and let restaurants continue serving customers outdoors.
Business owners had spent a lot of money reconfiguring their spaces, buying cleaning products and training staff while trying to keep their enterprises afloat.
Restaurateurs complained there was no proof that COVID-19 spikes were coming from their businesses.
During a July 7 press conference, Martin Cardenas, owner of Cancun Grill, said for those who are complying with regulations, “let us remain open.”
Others bemoaned having to attract outdoor diners during the hot, rainy season.
“The way they do business means that the people have to take off their masks,” Gimenez said July 7. “Taking off your mask in an interior space, according to our experts, it’s dangerous because the virus spreads as people talk.
“It’s not that [restaurant owners] did anything wrong,” Gimenez said.
“.....The percentages are, in that restaurant, somebody, one, two, three, four people, may have COVID-19 and may be spreading it,” he said. “That’s why it’s OK to do it outside.”
On July 11, the state said the positive test rate for the virus in the county was 21.9%; Gimenez released a report that said it was 29.1%.
Either way, the World Health Organization says to reopen safely, the rate should be 5% or less for at least two weeks.
County officials have said they want to see the positivity rate at 10% for 14 consecutive days.
The cumulative total of cases in Miami Lakes reached 321 on July 11; it’s unknown how many of those residents may have recovered.
Politicians blamed street protests and large gatherings for the higher numbers.
After months of living with restrictions, people seemed to need to unwind.
And on any given street in town and on any given day, many can be seen without masks they could use to protect themselves and others from the highly contagious virus.
A question asked repeatedly during town officials’ Facebook Live sessions is whether residents have to wear masks while walking their dogs.
Yes, they do, Assistant Town Manager Tony Lopez said during one Facebook video.
“Again, we cannot stress enough that we as a community still are not over this virus yet,” Lopez said on July 9. “Please continue taking all necessary precautions such as wearing a mask, practicing social distancing and following the rules and guidance provided by federal, state and local agencies.
“Only by taking these steps together as a community can we help stop the continued spread of the virus,” Lopez said.
“Also remember, if you don’t have to go out,” he said, “stay safer at home.”