MIAMI (CBSMiami) - Wearing a mask will save lives.
That was the message Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez pushed Friday morning during a virtual press conference.
"Wearing a mask will save lives. It is not a theory, it's proven science. Not wearing a mask can be a death sentence for you or those around you. Please take it seriously," he said.
On Thursday, Miami-Dade commissioners approved a new enforcement plan. For not following a county order, a business owner may face up to a $500 fine. For everyone else, they may be forced to cough up $100 or do community service for breaking rules, like not wearing a mask.
"That means you must wear a mask inside and in public places and outdoors unless there can be social distancing," said Gimenez. "Your business must follow the rules and customers must wear face masks or they can get civil citations of up to $500."
In addition to the police, all of the county's code and fire inspectors now have the power to issue tickets for those not following the rules.
Gimenez said tickets will be issued on the spot for violators.
"Simply by having one of our code enforcement officers watch you not wear a mask. Somebody can tap you on the shoulder and say here, here is a citation for not wearing a mask. That process begins today," he said. "This simplifies the process. You don't need a police officer involved in issuing these citations."
Gimenez said exceptions will be made for people who are actively exercising and maintaining a ten-foot distance from other people.
Children under two-years-old and people with medical conditions that preclude mask use are also exempt.
WATCH: Mayor Carlos Gimenez Virtual Press Conference
When asked by CBS4's Peter D'Oench what it will take to get this pandemic under control, Gimenez replied "Simply us."
"It's going to take us to change our behavior. Young people need to stop partying and stop going to social events. Even older folks, like me, need to stop having events with our families for a while. If you do, take the appropriate measures while you are having that event, maintain social distancing, continue to wear a mask, even with your family members because now we see the spread is inside the home," he said.
Gimenez added that younger people really need to act more responsibly and stop socializing because that is the root cause of why the county is having a spike.
Margaret Sawyer, a Sales Associate in her early 20s who works at Aviator Nation in Wynwood in Miami, told D'Oench she agrees with the Mayor.
"People are being very irresponsible," she said. "If you are going to a party, wear a mask, even if you are the only one there wearing a mask. You don't know if the people there are lying about not having COVID-19. In a lot of cases, people are lying. And people are still going out to parties and to family parties. I knew someone who got sick and died from COVID-19."
The mayor said they are going to take particular interest in people who are having parties and party boats.
"If you're the operator of a party boat and you have more than the number of people you are supposed to have on any kind of boat then you may find yourself in serious trouble," said Gimenez.
The mayor said they will also be focusing on the enforcement of the curfew, especially in some entertainment areas.
Gimenez said he hoped the avoid any shutdown of non-essential businesses.
"This is a balancing act," he said. "Shutting down businesses again would cause irreparable damage and irreparable harm to people and their livelihoods on a permanent basis where they don't have a job to go back to, where there won't be a job for them."
When asked about hospital ICU capacity, Gimenez said they have not exceeded ICU capacity even though the county's dashboard indicated they had. He added that more ICU beds could be made available if needed.
"Hospitals have the ability to add hundreds of ICU beds simply by A, not having elective surgery that means you can convert all the recovery rooms into basically ICU rooms," said Gimenez, "Hospitals are adjusting on a daily basis."
Gimenez said our the last four days, they've seen a two percent increase in hospitalizations which is a significant decrease in the number of increases they've seen before.
The mayor said they are in talks with the governor's office concerning getting more doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals for the county.
"We're finding that some of the health care professionals are actually getting sick and so they are losing people that way. So we need to replace them, we need to augment them, so we can open up more spaces," said Gimenez.
Gimenez said he spoke with Jackson Health System CEO Carlos Migoya who said their hospitals have seen a reduction of people in the ICU and a reduction in the number of hospitalizations overall.
The mayor they are keeping in touch with hospitals in Broward and Palm Beach counties as they treat the virus as a threat to the region.
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