Miami-Dade to close restaurant dining rooms, gyms


People wearing protective face masks walk past a closed entrance to the beach during the new coronavirus pandemic, Friday, July 3, 2020, in the South Beach neighborhood of Miami Beach, Fla. Beaches throughout South Florida are closed for the busy Fourth of July weekend to avoid further spread of the new coronavirus. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (The News Service of Florida) — With South Florida continuing to be the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the state, the Miami-Dade County mayor announced Monday he will shut down restaurant dining rooms, gyms and banquet facilities.

County Mayor Carlos Gimenez released a statement that said the closings will take effect Wednesday and pointed, in part, to needing to “ensure that our hospitals continue to have the staffing necessary to save lives.” He also cited a surge in cases among young adults in recent weeks as restaurants and other businesses reopened after being shuttered to prevent the spread of the virus.

“We are still tracking the spike in the number of cases involving 18- to 34-year-olds that began in mid-June, which the county’s medical experts say was caused by a number of factors, including young people going to congested places — indoors and outside —  without taking precautions such as wearing masks and practicing social distancing,” Gimenez said in the statement. “Contributing to the positives in that age group, the doctors have told me, were graduation parties, gatherings at restaurants that turned into packed parties in violation of the rules and street protests where people could not maintain social distancing and where not everyone was wearing facial coverings.”

The announcement came amid soaring cases statewide and in Miami-Dade County, which has by far the most cases in the state. Florida reported another 6,336 cases Monday, bringing its total to 206,447. In Miami-Dade, 1,981 additional cases were reported Monday, which brought the county’s total to 48,992 — or nearly 24 percent of the statewide total.

Gimenez, a Republican, took the steps while Gov. Ron DeSantis has resisted calls to step back from an economic reopening that began in May and expanded in June. One exception is that the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation on June 26 issued an order stopping bars from serving alcohol to customers for on-site consumption. Bars had been allowed to reopen in early June.

“I think that where you start to see the spread is just in social situations when people let their guard down,” DeSantis said during a news conference Monday in The Villages, a Central Florida retirement community.

Like Gimenez, DeSantis has said the surge in cases in recent weeks stems largely from young adults, who are less likely than seniors or people with underlying medical conditions to face serious medical consequences if they become infected with COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.

As the cases in Miami-Dade County have continued to skyrocket, Gimenez has repeatedly asked residents to don face masks to try to reduce the spread of the disease.

“We can tamp down the spread if everyone follows the rules, wears masks and stays at least six feet apart from others,” Gimenez said in the statement Monday. “I am counting on you, our 2.8 million (county) residents, to stop the spread so that we can get back to opening our economy.”

Gimenez said he would issue an executive order that will close restaurants, except for takeout and delivery services. Also, he will close ballrooms, banquet facilities, party venues, gyms and fitness centers and short-term rentals.

Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital, the state’s largest hospital system, announced last week that it would stop offering access to elective inpatient procedures because of rising COVID-19 cases and inpatient hospitalizations.

Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties are the top three counties in the state for cases, combining for a total of 88,090 cases.

— News Service senior writer Dara Kam contributed to this report.

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