MIAMI (CBSMiami) – On Tuesday, mayors and health officials across South Florida gathered for a meeting to discuss possible options and methods to curb the spread of COVID-19 ahead of the holidays.
While enforcing social distancing and CDC rules at gatherings may prove to be a challenge, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said there are ways to keep your family safe and healthy.
"The bottom line is that COVID cases are on the rise again in Miami-Dade. And it's threatening our health and well-being – especially our most vulnerable and putting our healthcare workers and front line workers at risk," she said. "The rise in cases means that we risk setting our economy backwards after we have worked so hard getting the virus under control earlier this year."
Even though health officials have advised against non-essential travel because of the spike, Miami International Airport is seeing an increase in travelers.
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Mayor Cava said that while tourists are welcome, safety comes first.
"Traffic is up, which in many ways is a good thing, it shows that people want to visit us. But as we continue to see the increase, which we expect to see throughout the week, we must continue to be hyper-vigilant," she said. "MIA is asking all passengers to comply with all the social distancing, masking and other requirements. And we also ask you to please be careful, and get tested before and after you travel. That is good practice."
City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez is also concerned, saying he believes that counties across the state may not be ready to handle another surge in cases with holidays upon us.
"As local governments, we don't have all the tools in our toolbox that we could use to potentially mitigate the spread of the COVID-19," he said. "And that's something that's an enormous concern as mayor of the city of Miami. I know the county mayor shares that concern, and I know that the others mayors share that concern as well."
Mayor Suarez said he is going to continue urging Gov. Ron DeSantis to give local governments more control over social distancing, safety and mask citations. He said stricter enforcement will be key to slowing the spread.
"I'm going to continue to reach out to the governor and press upon him the need for all of us to have that local control," he said. "For us to have the ability to take whatever steps we feel is necessary to mitigate the spread successfully as we did in the summer."
And while local leaders want more control to mandate masks and the like, Gov. DeSantis has not indicated he's willing to roll back the state's phased reopening.
Last week, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said DeSantis had not responded to five letters sent from his office, dating as far back as September.
"The governor does not want us to be doing this but I don't think we have a choice at this point," he said.
On Tuesday's virtual conference, Gelber announced Miami Beach police will now issue face mask citations to people who violate the rule. The enforcement will begin on Wednesday through the weekend.
While police can't impose a fine just yet, Gelber said they must protect their community.
"We are going to offer free masks. If they don't take the masks, we will give them a citation," he said. "How effective this is? I do not know. But I know that with this surge that we are feeling right now it is really important to message to the community how vital it is to wear a mask."
The entire state of Florida moved into Phase 3 back in September.
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