Miami closes restaurants as cases continue to spike across US

Miami Mayor Carlos Gimenez also closed gyms, short-term rentals, ballrooms and other event spaces. Last week, the mayor ordered casinos, movie theatres and strip clubs to close and mandated masks in most public spaces.

Late last month, state officials ordered bars statewide to suspend on-premises consumption. County officials closed bars and rightclubs in early June.

Retail stores, offices and salons and barbers are open “for now,” the mayor said.

Florida’s most populous county has ordered restaurants to halt on-site dining again as the state’s coronavirus infections continue to rise across the state, including an uptick in the number of younger patients.

The announcement follows the state reaching more than 200,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19, while the availability of hospital beds in several counties has hit or is close to reaching capacity.

Mayor Gimenez blamed a rise in cases among 18- to -34-year-old residents, which surged in June, on a “number of factors, including young people going to congested places – indoors and outside – without taking precautions such as wearing masks and practising social distancing.”

He said health officials have pointed to graduation, parties and restaurant gatherings. He also blamed “street protests where people could not maintain social distancing and where not everyone was wearing facial coverings,” though several cities with large protest turnouts have not reported case increases related to demonstrations.

“We want to ensure that our hospitals continue to have the staffing necessary to save lives,” the mayor said in a statement on Monday.

Closures are effective on 8 July. A 10am to 6pm curfew also remains in effect except for essential workers.

Florida was among the first states to reopen on 1 April, though more populated and impacted Miami-Dade and Broward counties didn’t reopen until mid-May.

Mayor Gimenez said the county’s beaches will reopen on Tuesday following Fourth of July holiday weekend closures but threatened to close them if people violate physical distancing rules during what are otherwise busy summer months.

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The Miami area, home to roughly 2.8 million people, has confirmed nearly 50,000 cases and more than 1,000 deaths since the onset of the outbreak.

On Saturday, Florida health officials recorded more than 11,000 new cases in the state, shattering single-day records and nearly surpassing New York’s highest daily case toll of roughly 11,500, recorded back in April. New York’s one-day toll was the highest in the US amid the pandemic thus far.

The state also saw its youngest Covid-19 victim last week with the death of an 11-year-old boy, according to the state’s health department.

Daequan Wimberly, who had joined the family of a Miami pastor and struggled with several health issues, died on 30 June, according to the Miami Herald.

“The death of an 11-year-old boy … should send a signal to all of our community that this virus can attack anyone without mercy,” Mayor Gimenez said in a statement.

The US recorded more than 50,000 cases for the second day in a row on Independence Day as the nation saw a dozen states double their case counts over the last two weeks.

More than 2.7 million cases in the US have been identified over the last several months, including nearly 129,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

While city and county officials across Florida have imposed some measures to combat the state’s disturbing spikes, Governor Ron DeSantis has faced mounting criticism from state lawmakers urging the governor to issue a statewide mask mandate, but he has resisted shutting down the state beyond its current closures.

On Monday, the governor, a staunch ally of Donald Trump, insisted that the increase in cases is due to widespread testing.

“As you see cases, people should just put it into context about what’s going on,” he said during a press conference. “There’s no need to really be fearful about it.”

The governor claims that the state has processed an average of 60,000 to 65,000 test results in recent weeks, totalling roughly 2.2 million – about 10 per cent of the state’s population – since the onset of the virus.

“When we do 85,000 tests, we’re gonna have more,” he claimed.

While the state’s rate of positive cases dropping below 5 per cent between May and June, as lockdowns were lifted and people returned to business as usual, positive cases have increased significantly, to nearly 20 per cent, in recent weeks.

But other Republican governors once eager to reopen businesses and lift brief stay-at-home measures reversed course in recent weeks, marking a significant turn among Republican leaders signalling that their reopening plans had failed.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered most residents to wear face coverings in public after the state saw a sharp uptick in new cases last week. In June, he rolled back the state’s reopening by closing bars and reducing restaurant capacity to a maximum of 50 per cent occupancy.

Arizona also has mandated face coverings in public after the state saw its largest single-day case spike last month.

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