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Miami-Dade County Mayor Says Masks, Social Distancing Rules Aren't Enough, Enforcement Is Key06:39
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A sign asks people not to visit Miami Beach if they have a cough or fever, Monday, June 22, 2020. (Wilfredo Lee/AP)
A sign asks people not to visit Miami Beach if they have a cough or fever, Monday, June 22, 2020. (Wilfredo Lee/AP)

The country’s top infectious disease specialist flagged Florida as a COVID-19 hot spot while speaking before a House committee on Tuesday.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, said he’s seeing a “disturbing spike” in infections across some parts of the country — and that the next few weeks in Florida will be critical.

Florida passed 100,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Monday, and Miami-Dade County in the southern part of the state has seen a quarter of those.

But as COVID-19 hospitalizations trend upward, county Mayor Carlos Gimenez says he won't shut the area back down. Instead, he says the county needs to enforce its existing rules, including new mandates on masks implemented by several major cities within the county.

“It's not the measure, it's the enforcement” of wearing masks and social distancing, he says.

“Last week, I ordered a crackdown on businesses near Miami-Dade to make sure that people were complying with the rules,” he says. “The rules that we put in place will work if people will follow them.”

On Monday, mayors of nearly a dozen cities in Miami-Dade announced they will be requiring face masks in public at all times. Those who violate the mandate risk being charged with a misdemeanor, the Miami Herald reports.

Right now, Gimenez says he’s concerned about the spike of positive cases in people ages 18 through 34, and he hopes young people in his county will continue to take the virus seriously.

Interview Highlights

On whether a second lockdown is called for as COVID-19 rates rise in Miami-Dade county

“No, I don't think we can go back right now. We ran a study with the University of Miami and found that actually here in Miami-Dade, about a month and a half ago, the number of people that had tested positive to the antibody were, if you took it, extrapolated the percentage, probably over 200,000 people had already had the virus here in Miami-Dade. So the numbers are not what's alarming to me, but what’s causing me concern is the rising number of the percentage of positives. And so we were hovering around 5, 6, 7% positive of the tests that were being administered. Now it’s spiked. And we're now, over a 14-day average, over 10%. And we always want to stay under 10%.

“So in terms of hospitalizations and hospital beds that we have available, we have well over 2,700 hospital beds still available. So it's not getting anywhere close to the capacity of the health system here. The troubling aspect of this is that we've seen a huge spike in people [ages] 18 to 34 that are testing positive. Does that correlate to the protests and the demonstrations? Is it because young people think that, you know, since this virus is not likely to hit them hard, are they not taking certain precautions? I certainly saw that last Saturday when I ran around, a lot of people on the street, nobody was wearing a mask. Nobody was social distancing.”

On whether masks should be required for all of Miami-Dade county

“Well, I mean, I've talked to my medical advisers today about that in the cities. I could see where that would make sense because it's much more dense. But in the unincorporated areas in Miami Dade, it's a lot different. People don't live the same way. Most of them are living in single-family homes and not in apartments. I got to take a look at that. I don't think it's a bad idea to do it in those cities.

“... You can order all the mask-wearing that you want. But the people are starting to gather in individual homes and basically partying and doing things that they shouldn't be doing. They're not maintaining social distancing, etc., indoors. That really is going to undo everything that we're trying to do.

“So the message has to be to the young people. Yeah, the probabilities are this virus, if you get it, you may not even get any symptoms. And it may not be a problem for you, but there is a certain percentage of young folks that it's becoming a problem, those with underlying medical conditions. This virus could be deadly to those young people.”

On the message President Trump sends by not wearing a mask

“I think … everything is important. I wear a mask wherever I'm outside, [when] I can't maintain social distancing. I wear a mask when I'm inside. I would hope that the message would be consistent and because it is important for the people to have that visual. Look, we've had incidents here in Miami where some mayors did not wear masks when they were supposed to be wearing masks and they were caught. And that's not a good message. We should be consistent. And what we're saying, what we're asking people to do, we ought to do ourselves.

On President Trump saying he would be willing to meet with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro

“I think he clarified what he meant. He said he would meet with Maduro only to negotiate his exit from Venezuela, and so that I support. I mean, that's what we need to have. Maduro needs to leave Venezuela. You know, socialism has destroyed Venezuela, just like it destroyed my home country of Cuba. And so if you want to meet him to negotiate his exit, by all means. All right.

“But to meet him for other purposes — no, I don't support that. But I don't believe that's what the president meant. He clarified that in a tweet [Monday] of exactly what he meant. That meeting's just to negotiate his exit. So for that, yeah, I do support that. But for other purposes, I will not support it. I don't think it does any good.”

On whether Juan Guaidó could end up leading Venezuela

“Do I think it's possible? Anything's possible. Do I think it's probable? No, I don't think it's probable, but it is possible. Like I said, I'm Cuban. I came from Cuba when I was 6 years old. I've seen this play before. I've seen this movie before. Dictators like that don't normally give up their power-using. And so do I believe that he can? Yes, he can. Do I think he will? I'm not so sure of that.”


Francesca Paris produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Peter O'DowdSerena McMahon and James Perkins Mastromarino adapted it for the web.

This segment aired on June 23, 2020.

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