Miami and Fort Lauderdale beaches closing for Fourth of July amid coronavirus concerns

Beaches in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach, popular with residents and tourists, will be closed Fourth of July weekend as officials keep a cautious eye on the rapidly rising number of new coronavirus cases in Florida.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said all beaches and parks in the county will close from Friday, July 3, through Tuesday, July 7. He warned the closure could be extended if conditions don’t improve and people don’t follow rules designed to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

“As we continue to see more COVID-19 positive test results among young adults and rising hospitalizations, I have decided that the only prudent thing to do to tamp down this recent uptick is to crack down on recreational activities that put our overall community at higher risk,” Gimenez said in a news release Friday.

Other counties follow

Broward County cities will follow Miami-Dade County’s example to close beaches ahead of July 4, the city of Fort Lauderdale said in a tweet.

Beaches in Broward County will be closed from July 3 through July 5, according to the tweet.

Several mayors from Broward’s coastal cities held a news conference Sunday to discuss the measure.

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis confirmed beaches would be closed from July 3 through July 5.

“The reason why we’re doing this is because we feel that we will not be able to provide the necessary safe environment that everyone is entitled to enjoy when they come to our beaches,” he said.

Trantalis said all mayors of the county’s beach communities as well as the Broward County mayor had collaborated on the plan to keep the environment safe.

“Our businesses will remain open — all the restaurants, all the T-shirt shops, all the retail shops — everything will be open,” he said. “But, unfortunately, because we normally anticipate large crowds, perhaps even coming from other counties, that we made this decision to move forward.”

Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner told CNN on Sunday he will also be issuing an order to close beaches under his jurisdiction.

“In consultation with our county administrator, we will be issuing an order tomorrow, tomorrow morning, that will close the Palm Beach County beaches throughout the entirety of the county for the holiday weekend.

“It is an unfortunate result, but public health remains the focus of the elected leaders of Palm Beach County,” Kerner said. “Unfortunately, this Fourth of July will not be spent at the beach.”

Kerner said more details of the closure would be announced Monday.

Mayors heckled

Some people who were against the measure heckled the officials at the news conference. Beachgoers could be heard yelling at the mayors: “Freedom,” “Socialism,” “This is America,” and “Don’t shoot!”

“Obviously this decision is not unanimous, right, you can hear it. All right. OK. Not everyone’s going to be happy about that decision and we always understand that sometimes decisions have to be made so that we can protect the majority of people. So we just ask that you understand and try to respect what we’re trying to do for the general public,” Trantalis responded.

Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper spoke briefly, at times yelling over the heckles. “We would like them to understand that we are doing this to protect the public,” she said.

“All we’re trying to do here today is just to assure everybody we’re doing this for the right reasons,” Lauderdale-by-the-Sea Mayor Christopher Vincent said. Vincent said the officials want to avoid “the influx of about 10 times as many people” next weekend.

The Broward County Commission said on Twitter that Broward County Mayor Dale Holness “says Broward beaches will close on July 4th weekend in agreement with Mayors of coastal cities in Broward.”

Florida spike

The Florida Department of Health reported 8,530 new coronavirus cases Sunday. On Saturday, the state reported 9,585 new coronavirus cases, a single-day record high since the start of the pandemic. The number rivals that of New York’s peak in daily cases in early April.

South Florida — especially the Miami area — has the most new cases in the state, and it is mostly due to socializing, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a news briefing Sunday.

DeSantis said there had been a big increase in positive tests among young people, particularly those 18 to 44, over the past three weeks. Graduation parties and socializing without social distancing was responsible for several COVID-19 cases, he said.

The governor said that a backlog of testing accounted for the current spike.

In Miami, Gimenez is also making efforts to curb large gatherings over the holiday weekend, limiting get-togethers and parades to no more than 50 people. Masks and social distancing are required.

Fireworks will have to be viewed from home or a parked vehicle, according to the mayor’s order.

“I have been seeing too many businesses and people ignoring these lifesaving rules,” Gimenez said. “If people are not going to be responsible and protect themselves and others from this pandemic, then the government is forced to step in and restore common sense to save lives.”

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