Curfew ends in Miami Lakes

Featured By David Snelling, Reporter Wednesday, April 29, 2020

The curfew in Miami Lakes was not extended past the 10 days it was originally set after councilmembers challenged its purpose as well as the town manager’s authority to enact it.
The 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, an emergency order by Town Manager Edward Pidermann for April 13 to April 23, was done in coordination with neighboring cities Hialeah and Hialeah Gardens, which already had curfews in place.
The goal was to limit large social gatherings in town when there was no curfew and to try to halt the spread of the coronavirus.
The curfew built upon Pidermann’s March 26 order for residents to be “safer at home” and limit gatherings of more than 10 people.
Churches and parks were closed then; essential businesses such as restaurants, drug stores, gas stations and supermarkets were allowed to stay open.
Cases of COVID-19 were spiking in the northwest section of the county on the date the curfew was enacted: the state reported then there were 918 cases of the virus in Hialeah and 35 in Miami Lakes.
The state sorts cases by zip code. Hialeah Gardens shares ZIP codes with those municipalities and said it was difficult to know the exact number of cases there.
Ten days later on April 22, Hialeah led the county with 1,291 cases and Miami Lakes had 42 cases.
Miami-Dade Commissioner Esteban Bovo, Jr., whose district includes the northwest section of the county, requested the curfew in town because of his concerns about the spread of the disease.
During the April 21 town meeting, Bovo told the council that Miami Lakes “has been a good example of not only being a good neighbor, but also a good regional neighbor.”
Miami Lakes is bookended by two of the highest coronavirus outbreak areas in the county, Bovo said.
“I want to thank all of you for the sacrifices you’ve made for your town and your leadership as we battle the coronavirus,” Bovo said.
Councilwoman Marilyn Ruano told Bovo she didn’t like the curfew and asked if there were any medical experts who guided it.
“One of the things we were starting to realize is our borders are seamless,” Bovo said. He lives in the affected area and said as an example, there were different approaches by supermarkets to keep people safe.
“And because of the high numbers, where you start dialing down zip codes, that’s when I started getting concerned,” Bovo said.
“I know the virus does not take the night off and I’m not a proponent of curfew,” he said. “But for a short time, we needed to have a uniform approach, at least for the short term.”
The curfew allowed late shift workers and police and fire service members to do their jobs. It also allowed residents to go to pharmacies, receive food deliveries and walk pets close to home.
But Ruano and Councilman Joshua Dieguez said the curfew infringed on their rights to exercise at night.

Dieguez proposed to end the curfew that night but the council decided to let it expire as planned, two days later.
“As a night owl, personally I am one of those people that does like to go walking at night to clear the mind or go on a bike ride,” Dieguez said, adding that he has complied with the curfew.
Ruano said the town’s government doesn’t have the right to tell people what they can’t do at night or issue orders “that make no sense,” or enact them without the advice of medical professionals.
“It’s my right to walk when I feel safe and no one should dictate that to me,” she said. “ I don’t think there’s any link at all to an evening curfew and public health...I tried to walk during the day but I get trampled by herds of bicycles.”
The two council members said the curfew didn’t make sense because residents could still get infected or spread COVID-19 during the day if they didn’t practice social distancing.
Dieguez said the curfew failed to stop the virus from spreading in Miami Lakes.
Vice Mayor Nelson Rodriguez said he understood the curfew was a safety measure to protect town residents from harm from outsiders who may have visited at night.
But Rodriguez said there was “probably not” a health benefit from the curfew for Miami Lakers.
If there was any harm from the curfew it may have been to restaurants in town that had to close early, Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said the town charter should be changed to give council members the power to issue executive orders instead of
Pidermann, whose performance he praised.
“The elected body is the one that has the authority to make these decisions,” Rodriguez said.
Mayor Manny Cid said he hadn’t heard any complaints about the curfew.
Instead, Cid said he was worried for small businesses that were closed, don’t have money to hire lobbyists and weren’t eligible for benefits such as free personal protective equipment.
Cid said many residents are unemployed, strapped for cash and unable to feed their families.
“Folks are losing their livelihoods every day,” Cid said. “Not one person has mentioned our curfew or anything to me. But dozens talk to me about their livelihoods on a daily basis.”
Miami-Dade Police Major Javier Ruiz, who leads the agency’s district in town, said the curfew gave officers an opportunity to educate the public about social distancing.
“If we see someone on the streets, we can tell them they need to get home,” he said.
Ruiz said police didn’t see a spike in crime during the curfew.

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