Miami Beach declared a state of emergency in response to the large spring break crowds converging on the city and disregarding the COVID-19 rules of social detachment.
On March 20, city officials imposed a curfew from 8 pm to 6 am to disperse undisciplined crowds along South Beach. The next day, they extended the curfew for another week and said it could be extended until April, if necessary.
Before curfew, the local police threw pepper balls at the crowd and arrested more than 1,000 people for fighting in the streets, destroying restaurants, refusing to wear masks and not maintaining social distancing protocols. Police said both university students and adults were among the detainees.
City Hall Raul Aguila told the Associated Press that more than half of those arrested were from outside the state. He also noted that most people were not eating in restaurants or condescending business, but instead engaged in “illegality and a ‘anything goes’ partying attitude” ”as they gathered on the streets.
Miami has always been one of the most popular spring break destinations in the United States, and noisy crowds are not uncommon. However, tourist behavior is out of control this spring, after a year of coronavirus-related blockages and restrictions across the country.
“Many are coming, really, with no intention of following the rules, and the result has been a level of chaos and disorder that is more than we can handle,” Miami Mayor Dan Gelber told CNN. “I think it may be a little bit related to just people trying to break free after being repressed, but some people are coming here with a ‘anything goes’ mentality.”
To control the crowds, officials enacted the following measures:
- All restaurants and open-air cafes in the entertainment district are closed from 7:00 pm to 6:00 am
- The entertainment district is under a curfew from 8 pm to 6 am
- Eastbound bridges to Miami Beach are closed from 9 pm to 6 am, with exceptions for residents, employees of local businesses, and hotel guests
- Hotel guests are invited to stay on the premises during the curfew
These measures are scheduled to run until March 30, but can be extended in weekly increments until April 13.
Florida allowed restaurants and bars to reopen at 100% capacity in September 2020. However, the state positivity rate it is still hovering around 7%, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The World Health Organization recommends that a region’s positivity rate drop to less than 5% before authorities ease movement restrictions.
Miami is currently reporting more than 1,000 new COVID-19 infections per day.