Miami Beach has declared a state of emergency in response to massive spring break crowds converging on the city and disregarding COVID-19 social distancing rules.
On March 20, city officials imposed a curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. to disperse unruly crowds along South Beach. The following day, they extended the curfew for another week and said it could be extended well into April if necessary.
Prior to the curfew, local police shot pepper balls into crowds and arrested over 1,000 people for fighting in the streets, trashing restaurants, refusing to wear masks and failing to maintain social distancing protocols. Police said that both college students and adults were among those taken into custody.
City Manager Raul Aguila told the Associated Press that more than half of the people who were arrested were from out of state. He also noted that most people weren’t eating in restaurants or patronizing businesses but instead engaging in “lawlessness and an ‘anything goes’ party attitude” while gathering in the streets.
Miami has always been one of the most popular spring break destinations in the United States, and raucous crowds are not unusual. However, tourist behavior has been out of control this spring following a year of coronavirus-related lockdowns and restrictions across the country.
“Too many are coming, really, without the intention of following the rules, and the result has been a level of chaos and disorder that is just something more than we can endure,” Miami Mayor Dan Gelber told CNN. “I think it might be a little bit related to just people looking to let loose after being pent up, but some people are coming here with sort of an ‘anything goes’ mentality.”
In order to control the crowds, officials have enacted the following measures:
All outdoor restaurants and cafes in the entertainment district are closed from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m.
The entertainment district is under curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Eastbound bridges to Miami Beach are closed from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m., with exceptions for residents, local businesses employees and hotel guests
Hotel guests are asked to remain on the premises during curfew
These measures are scheduled to stay in effect until March 30, but they may be extended in weekly increments through April 13.
Florida allowed restaurants and bars to reopen at 100% capacity in September 2020. However, the state’s positivity rate is still hovering around 7%, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The World Health Organization recommends that a region’s positivity rate fall below 5% before officials ease movement restrictions.
Miami is currently reporting over 1,000 new COVID-19 infections per day.