As more South Floridians tested positive for the coronavirus, Miami-Dade County on Saturday announced it was restricting hotel stays to help curb the spread of the highly contagious illness.
In an order released Saturday morning, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said hotels, motels and other lodging businesses can’t accept new reservations, but he allowed for a host of exceptions, including medical personnel, journalists, first responders and “persons unable to return home” because of the global pandemic’s effect on travel.
The order, which also limits guests to two per room, was effective immediately.
“The exceptions are meant to ensure that only those who must be in Miami-Dade County because they are helping in this emergency, or those who have nowhere else to go, such as domestic-violence victims or stranded visitors — they’re able to get a place to stay,” Gimenez said in a video message released on Saturday.
The mayor’s new restrictions appear to be less stringent than originally suggested. On Friday night, Miami Beach said it was closing all of its hotels and motels except for “essential lodgers” — a move Gimenez said he would follow. “I am ordering the closure of all hotels, commercial lodging establishments and short-term rentals in Miami-Dade County,” Gimenez said on Friday night.
The county’s new restrictions are designed to cut down on people interacting with each other, a way to slow the spread of the highly contagious virus that brought the world’s economy to a standstill and killed thousands across the globe. Miami-Dade County has already ordered the shutdown of parks, beaches, movie theaters, gyms and dine-in restaurants — pretty much anywhere people gather.
The danger for citizens only heightened on Saturday as the confirmed number of cases of COVID-19 in the United States surpassed 21,000. The Florida Department of Health said there were now 763 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, with 12 deaths. In Miami-Dade, there have been 169 confirmed cases.
Among those now recorded as being infected in South Florida: a University of Miami student, and someone associated with the Broward school district.
The escalation of cases is so dire that Gov. Ron DeSantis, at a Saturday afternoon press conference, said he may consider using empty hotels and conventions centers as facilities to isolate people diagnosed with the virus. The drastic measure would be for people who do not require hospitalization but could risk infecting others.
DeSantis said he has asked state agencies to explore the plan. He also added that some hotels have already offered their buildings.
“Hopefully, it doesn’t get to that,” he said. “But we’re planning for that, for sure, because I think that’s a prudent thing to do.”
Among other developments announced on Saturday: