MIAMI BEACH (CBSMiami/CNN) – The sun and sand of South Beach is synonymous with Spring Break and as travelers from across the country begin flocking to Florida for Spring Break, there are fears that there may be an uptick in coronavirus cases again.
"We're very concerned. You know, a lot of things are happening simultaneously. You have the variant down here, and we still are having sometimes dozens of deaths a day in our county," Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said on CNN's "New Day."
"And at the same time, we've got incredibly cheap round-trip tickets for 40 bucks from anywhere in the Northeast down here, discounted rooms and people who have been really pent up and wanting to get out with no other place to go than here. So we are very worried that there's going to be a convergence of people here and a real problem in the aftermath of that."
While there is ample outdoor dining and hotels have been following safety guidelines, Gelber said that gatherings at bars "might become the kinds of super-spreaders that I think we saw a year ago."
Gelber said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has hampered his ability to give out fines, so police officers and ambassadors are handing out masks.
The city is also enforcing a midnight curfew and a noise ordinance. There is no curfew in Broward County.
"I would love to have the governor's voice urging people to be responsible, but we really don't have that right now," said Gelber. "Since we opened everything up and didn't allow us to impose a mask mandate, there has been a massive amount of suffering. And others before that, it was down, if you follow the time he did that order, it went up. So you can't compare yourself to some place that doesn't have tourists or has more tourists than you or has more commercial residents. You have to compare yourself to what you do. Once we pulled back everything and said we're not even going to tell people they have to wear masks, we've had an enormous surge in deaths and hospitalizations. And that's the facts. That's science. That's provable," said Gelber.
Despite some colleges canceling Spring Break, students from more than 200 schools are expected to come to our sandy shores. Spring Break runs from late February to mid-April.
The largest crowds are taking place right now, mid-March, according to Miami Beach Police.
The police department has beefed up patrols, they are using ATV's on beach and license-plate readers to scan for suspicious cars. They've also set up checkpoints along the public beach where visitors are being screened for alcohol, coolers, backpacks, stereos and even inflatable toys.
And the warnings are everywhere. There is a massive marketing campaign warning spring breakers to "Vacation responsibly or be arrested."
Meantime, as the police deal with the large and often rowdy spring break crowds, health experts say it's still a dangerous time to mingle in crowds, particularly with new coronavirus strains emerging.
On Friday, Miami-Dade County reported an additional 1,426 coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of cases to 417,447 since March of 2020. The two-week positivity rate stands at 6.34%.
(©2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company, contributed to this report.)
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