This is not an easy challenge to navigate. Especially for us. Our City, on a daily basis, receives tens of thousands of visitors we host in our hotels, restaurants, beaches, venues and cultural institutions. We also have a significant senior citizen population most of whom use our free trolleys and shop at our grocery stores, and often eat together communally. And we are also in the midst of Spring Break, which attracts an entirely different group of young visitors, many of whom have been released from their colleges on extended vacations.
There is not a playbook readily available for guidance. But we are working around the clock to get the best available information so we can make informed decisions to protect our community.
Here is what is happening as of today.
First, over the weekend I asked our City Manager to activate our Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and since Monday, we have, essentially, followed our hurricane emergency management protocol and convened daily telephonic conferences with relevant City staff and Commissioners (or their representatives) where we go over City operations to make sure all departments are fully resourced and addressing all aspects of a constantly changing situation. Some of the actions we are taking include:
- Provided daily COVID-19 updates to the community via email newsletters (click here to sign up)
- Completed building-by-building outreach to senior centers in our City to ensure they are prepared and our seniors are informed and protected to the greatest extent possible
- Enacted COVID-19 protocols for our 911 call center and first responders, especially Fire Rescue, to ensure potential cases are handled correctly and that our first responders remain safe
- Convened a meeting of representatives from all hospitality venues in Miami Beach, including managers of all hotels, to provide a toolkit of COVID-19 best practices
- Temporarily cancelled Parks & Rec senior programs and large events
- Equipped trolleys with sanitizing materials for passengers and increased the frequency of cleaning, focusing on high-contact areas like buttons, handholds, rails, and pull cords
- Enhanced sanitizing of high-contact public services on City properties
- Asked cultural facilities to increase and emphasize sanitation procedures in their spaces
- Closed the City beachfront spring break activation as part of CDC recommended social distancing protocols
- Postponed nearly every major festival and city-sponsored or authorized gathering including our annual Pride Festival, as well as canceling performances at the Fillmore, the Colony Theater and the New World Symphony until further notice.
Scheduled City Advisory Board Meetings will be held telephonically until further notice.
Second, based on the advice of health care and emergency management professionals, as well as the recent action of the County and State government, our City Manager is invoking a declaration of state of emergency that will allow him to exercise certain powers our Charter entrusts with him. This could include closures of clubs and venues, curfews, as well as other actions necessary to promote the social distancing that experts strongly recommend. Many private venues and cultural institutions have unilaterally already taken these actions, so we are grateful for their good corporate citizenship.
Third, we are affirmatively trying to reduce the volume of visitors coming to our City for large gatherings. Across the globe, governments are encouraging social distance as a means to break this pandemic. I appreciate that this poses an incredible economic hardship to so many who have invested in our hospitality industry, but we are past the point where we can encourage or sponsor large crowds. To the extent that anyone can declare Spring Break over, it is over this year.
It’s important you know that our City Manager Jimmy Morales and all our City staff are working around the clock to address this multi-faceted and forever evolving challenge. We are in constant communication with our county, state and federal partners. My hope is that we will diminish the impact of COVID-19 in our community. But optimism is not a plan, and neither is panic. We will take actions that are grounded in the best information and science available. And we will get through this.
Thanks for your patience and trust. Stay healthy.