Despite public health guidelines and city ordinances warning against gathering in large groups due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of young people have gathered in Miami Beach for spring break—celebrations that many experts fear could become another superspreader event and have deadly consequences.
With crowds of visitors exceeding anything seen in the area in nearly a year and a half, Miami Beach officials have been forced to declare a state of emergency in the city — and the situation doesn’t appear to be getting better despite an increase in city restrictions and increased police presence. Patricia Mazzei and Christina Morales of The New York Times have reported that “many young people violated a new 8 p.m. curfew in Miami Beach, which took effect in the city’s South Beach entertainment district. Videos on social media from Friday night [March 19] showed hundreds of people gathered outside after dark and law enforcement dispersing crowds.”
The new restrictions and the earlier city curfew had been issued due to the fear of growing crowds in the city and the threat of a possible coronavirus resurgence officials warn they could trigger.
Describing the scene over the weekend, interim city manager Raul J. Aguila said “It looked like a rock concert. You couldn’t see pavement, and you couldn’t see grass.”
“Florida reopened months before the rest of the country, long before the recent wave of states like Texas that have lifted all or most lockdown restrictions and mask mandates,” Mazzei and Morales reported.
“Miami-Dade County has recently endured one of the nation’s worst outbreaks, and more than 32,000 Floridians have died from the virus, an unthinkable cost that the state’s leaders rarely acknowledge,” they reported. “The state is also thought to have the highest concentration of B.1.1.7, the more contagious and possibly more lethal virus variant first identified in Britain.”
“Miami Beach Police fired pepper balls into crowds of partiers and arrested at least a dozen people late Saturday as the city took extraordinary measures to crack down on spring breakers who officials have said are out of control,” CNN’s Melissa Alonso and Theresa Waldrop reported.
“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 Beach Mayor Dan Gelber told CNN, adding that the crowds in the city are simply “more than we can handle.”
Over the weekend, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert said he was alarmed and felt that Americans were getting too comfortable. Even though the pace of vaccinations continues to increase, data pointed to a recent plateau in infections, suggesting another surge in infections similar to the one we experienced last summer could be on the way.
“History has shown us that when you have that plateauing, that’s usually the forerunner of another surge — we’ve actually seen that in the European Union,” Dr. Fauci warned in an interview on the Today show, pointing to the recent surge in Europe that has caused numerous countries to reimpose national lockdown restrictions.
“I’m really concerned if we declare victory prematurely that that’s the same thing that’s going to happen [in the U.S.],” Dr. Fauci said, referencing the current situation in Europe. “If we can just hang on a bit longer, the more people get vaccinated, the less of a likelihood that there is going to be a surge.”
“In Miami Beach, law enforcement officials said large crowds had been drawn to the city because they were looking for a place with fewer virus restrictions,” Mazzei and Morales reported. “Hotel rooms and flights have been deeply discounted, to make up for the months of lost time.”
The current Miami Beach state of emergency could continue for several days until crowds begin to lessen and partiers start to make their way back home.
In addition to ongoing crowd management difficulties, the Miami Beach police have reported more than 50 arrests plus the confiscation of at least 8 firearms over the past few days alone.