MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava announced Thursday afternoon that all county employees must show proof of COVID vaccination or submit to weekly testing starting August 16.
"We all know that getting vaccinated is the single best step that any of us can take to protect ourselves and our loved ones to reduce the spread of the virus. Truly, it is the path forward," she said. "And this policy that we are announcing today will help ensure we are doing our part to maintain a safe, healthy workplace and that county employees are doing our part to prevent the spread of COVID across this community."
The mayor then addressed those in community who are unvaccinated.
"Our community has endured too much. We've experienced more than enough tragedy, and we've seen too many of our families hurting. By getting vaccinated we can avoid any further pain, we can avoid losing any more of our fellow neighbors, co-workers and friends," she said. "We can avoid what is truly preventable."
SEE IT: Cava Announces New Vaccine, Testing Mandate For County Employees
Cava made the announcement during a press conference outside of Jackson Memorial Hospital, where she was join by several healthcare professionals and local leaders.
According to Jackson Health System CEO Carlos Migoya, 60% of Jackson employees are vaccinated.
Migoya said that's just way too low, which is why the hospital system is now doubling down to stop COVID spread.
So beginning August 23, Jackson Heath System employees, physicians, students and onsite vendors will be required to be vaccinated.
As for those who do not get the shot, they must wear an N95 respirator at all times and cannot take off their masks to eat or drink anywhere inside.
Those who are vaccinated by September 30 will be paid $150 for doing so.
CBS4's Austin Carter asked Migoya why more of his employees are not vaccinated.
"Healthcare employees are no different than any human being in our community. They hear rumors all the time," he said. "And being in the healthcare business they hear more rumors. Everyone reads the internet, there's a whole lot of inaccurate information out there and our people hear it just like everyone else."
And as Jackson implements the new mandate, it has seen the number of COVID-19 patients climb every single day this week.
"We are seeing more and more children getting sick. Ninety-five percent of the people in the hospital are unvaccinated. It is inundating our hospitals. Our health care workers are just stressed to the max," said Martha Baker, the union head for nurses of Jackson Health.
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services reports 12,888 beds are being used for COVID-19 patients in Florida hospitals. Florida is the only state with 25% or more hospital beds occupied by COVID patients.
Across the Jackson Health System, the number of COVID patients has climbed from 238 on Monday to 305 on Thursday. Baptist Health South Florida had 726 patients with COVID or are awaiting test results. On Thursday that number climbed to 767.
"We're not alone," said Dr. Peter Paige, Miami-Dade County's chief medical officer. "Hospitals and health systems across south Florida that we communicate with are experiencing a similar if not a worse surge."
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