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Florida Mayor Tries To Counter Rise In New Coronavirus Cases


Joining us now on the line is the mayor of Miami-Dade County, Carlos Gimenez. Mr. Mayor, thanks for being with us.

CARLOS GIMENEZ: It's my pleasure.

MARTIN: So the governor of your state, Ron DeSantis, appearing to downplay the effects of the surge because it's mostly affecting young people. Are you equally comforted by that?

GIMENEZ: I'm comforted a little bit that it's a lot of young people. The problem is that the young people will go back home and infect their parents and their grandparents. And so what we've seen is a spike and definitely a spike in young people here. But we're also seeing an increase in the number of people going to the hospital. We've seen a number - an increase in the hospitalizations. We've seen an increase in ICU. We've seen an increase also in ventilator use.

And that's what has me concerned that we need to do something to start to put this down a little bit. Our positivity rate in Miami-Dade County is over 20%, whereas two weeks ago, it was about 8%. And then it's just a question of numbers when you have that many people, you eventually, you know, hit people that do have problems, that do - that will - that this virus will have negative consequences on. So that's the concern I have.

MARTIN: So did you open things up too quickly?

GIMENEZ: No, I don't think so. I think what happened was we opened up things very methodically. And we - also, we've had a mask order in place since mid-April. But I believe that a lot of young people just did not listen to this. We could see that they were getting together either at house parties, pool parties or - the protests, I don't think, did us any favors, either - a bunch of young people, you know, together, you know, next to each other for hours on end. And so a combination of all these things led to this spike with the young people of 18 to 34 and 35 to 45-year-olds. And that's why we have to take some measures. I've already taken some measures to try to tamp down the level of contagion here in Miami-Dade County.

MARTIN: And that includes a shutdown of nonessential businesses again. What do you say to critics of that? I mean, Manny Cid, neighboring mayor of Miami Lakes, has said he's afraid that the shutdown has the potential to destroy - his words - destroy many small businesses. How do you respond to that?

GIMENEZ: I'm afraid, you know, he's right. But look. What we did yesterday - the restaurant - as I sat down with the restaurant association, and we agreed that we would allow outdoor dining. And so - you know, along with our medical doctors, they feel that that's a lesser problem. We instilled a curfew at 10 o'clock which then shuts down what we saw - that there were restaurants that were actually converting themselves into bars after 11 o'clock. And again, you had the young people partying, not practicing social distancing, not wearing masks, et cetera.

MARTIN: But what I hear you saying is that there's going to be a cost to this, that some businesses may face closure and that that is just a necessary cost.

GIMENEZ: Well, look. I'm not looking to force anybody to close. I'm looking for ways to keep it safe. And so today, we will talk to some small businesses again. Is there a way to have them keep - stay safe? We'll be looking for different ways? And, by the way, we didn't close all all nonessential businesses. Just certain businesses will be closed. So the vast majority of businesses - retail businesses are going to stay open because, again, you can go into a retail store. Keep your mask on. You can keep social distancing. And you'll be OK.

So, you know, it's going to be a measured approach again. It was a measured approach to open. It'll be a measured approach to some closings. And, hopefully, it will be - we can limit those closings as much as possible. But those closings that we do have are the ones that we think will be the most beneficial to bring this contagion down, which is what we need to do.

MARTIN: Mayor Carlos Gimenez of Miami-Dade County, thank you so much for your time.

GIMENEZ: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.