Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez held a virtual press conference Friday May 14 on “Moving to a New Normal”, announcing his draft guidelines on reopening business in the County.
“The guidance was released as soon as it could be,” said the Mayor. “I sent this to the Governor yesterday. Hopefully, he’ll approve it.”
“Nothing can move forward until the Governor approves it,” he said. “I not only sent it out to Mayors but to businesses saying we hope to open May 18; be prepared to open. But it’s up to the Governor to decide when we can open.”
The Mayor was joined by four health care professionals on the conference call who provided input on reopening safeguards and answered questions.
County guidance uses a color-coded strategy for different phases of reopening. Red is the most restrictive, blue is the least restrictive. Opening first are retail and small business, personal grooming businesses, restaurants, shopping centers, offices, warehouses and manufacturing places. Restrictions still apply.
Not recommended to reopen are bars, pubs, nightclubs, movie theaters, pools, and gyms. Beaches also remain closed.
The draft order requires use of face masks, social distancing and fifty percent capacity for restaurants. No more than four guests at a table – preferably of the same household although driver’s licenses will not be checked. Additional sanitation rules apply also such as available hand sanitizer, plexiglas barriers at counters, individual serving condiments, disposable menus and even disposable silverware.
The issue becomes one of enforcement. “The goal for restaurants is the six foot social distance, not the 50% capacity,” he said.
Asked about taking customer’s temperatures, the Mayor said, “It is suggested for employees. Asymptomatic people probably have no temperature though.”
“For malls, we’re looking at parking lots for spaces between cars,” Mayor Gimenez said. “They may have to shut down if they don’t follow the rules.”
The Mayor said he talked to the League of Cities three times a week with thirty-four Mayors of Miami-Dade County as members, as well as the city managers’ association.
“The vast majority are following the County guidance,” Mayor Gimenez said. “Cities can be more stringent in their rules than the County allows but they can’t be more lenient.”
Florida City’s Mayor Otis Wallace said, “I fully understand that people have to get back to work to support their families. But I’m concerned that we may be making the move a little too soon and jeopardizing the health of the community.”
“I would have preferred more testing, particularly in Deep South Dade,” Mayor Wallace said. “As an individual, regardless of what I can do, I’m still going to be very careful about going out. It’s a personal choice.”
Mayor Wallace said most cities agreed in conference to follow the County’s guidance because it’s very confusing for residents with rules that change across city lines.
The doctors on the Mayor Gimenez’s call said it was important to assess the effects of reopening, urging more testing and contact tracing. “Contact tracing is an important element of any disease investigation,” said Carlos Migoya the CEO of Jackson Health System.
Homestead City Manager Cate McCaffrey said the city would follow the guidance of the County for reopening on Monday May 18. “We’ve already been working in conjunction with our Mayor and Council to educate the community and make sure this important step towards normalcy is taken with the utmost safety,” she said.
Homestead issued a press release announcing business reopening on Monday May 18 with 50% indoor capacity if face coverings are worn, six foot social distancing enforced and additional hygienic precautions taken. The City also opened five parks from 7 am to 8 pm for limited passive use.
Mayor Gimenez said the County never had a curfew such as some cities imposed. He said he was not reopening community centers but searching for a way to get meals to seniors who depended on them. The County order does not apply to the court system which manages its own procedures.
“Churches were never ordered to close,” the Mayor said. “As for the new school year, the Superintendent is working with the School Board to make sure it’s safe before it reopens.”
“You’re still safer at home, but when you do go out, follow the rules and you’ll be just fine,” Mayor Gimenez said.
Some callers asked if they could open Monday as their businesses were not specified in the reopening order. The Mayor’s staff said they could call 311 to ask or email their questions to email@example.com