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COVID-19 concerns cut spring breakers vacation as south Florida beaches close to fight spread of virus

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Spring break may have been in full swing, but now it’s getting a buzz-killing dose of coronavirus reality.

Both Fort Lauderdale and Miami Beach are closing their beaches in an attempt to contain the spread of COVID-19, officials for both cities said Sunday in a joint news conference at Miami Beach City Hall.

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis and Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said the two cities worked together on coming up with a plan so that any new rules enforced by one city would not send a crush of spring breakers to the other one.

“We have to everything we can to minimize crowds and stop further cases of COVID-19,” said Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis.

Trantalis said that Fort Lauderdale Beach will be closed as of today through April 12 from Harbor Drive to north of Oakland Park Blvd.

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said South Beach will be closed from 5th St to 15th St. until March 19th, and at that point officials will decide if the beach should remain closed.

Gelber put it this way to the young spring breakers that have been descending en masse to South Beach: “You have a mother, you have a grandmother and maybe a great grandmother. That virus can be extremely dangerous to them.”

Gelber added, “We cannot come a petri dish for a very dangerous virus.”

The two mayors announced the measures as the number of new cases in Florida keeps growing and is expected to continue to increase over the next couple months, experts say.

Florida is now up to 109 cases, state officials reported early Sunday. That’s 39 more than the day before. The new tally brings the number of cases in Broward County to 36.

Fort Lauderdale’s announcement comes one day after Miami Beach began closing the most popular sections of its beach Saturday beginning at 5 p.m.

Gelber declared that spring break was “over” in South Beach during a Thursday news conference. (link to Miami Herald story?)

On Friday, Fort Lauderdale’s mayor called a state of emergency in response to the spreading virus, canceling all city events and meetings for the next 30 days, through April 12.

The following events in Fort Lauderdale are postponed:
– All meetings of the commission and city boards, including advisory boards, city committees and City working groups;
– All special magistrate, code enforcement, board of adjustment and nuisance abatement board hearings;
– All homeowner association and civic association meetings held on city property;
– All city events and city-approved events; and
– All city recreational programs, facility rentals, pools and organized sports leagues. Parks facilities and community centers remain open during normal business hours; however, all programming is postponed.

In addition, all organized public gatherings must now be capped at 250 people, Trantalis said.

Exemptions include land or facilities owned and managed by Broward County, the Broward County School Board, the North Broward Hospital District, the state or federal government, as well as hospitals and healthcare facilities.

Fort Lauderdale is requiring every public place, including all businesses, restaurants, bars and retail shops to have alcohol-based hand sanitizer at every entrance.

These measures are being put in place to help slow the spread of the coronavirus and ensure the healthcare system is not overwhelmed, the mayor said.

(c)2020 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
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