Masks are now required indoors at Miami-Dade County facilities for everyone regardless of their vaccination status, officials said Wednesday amid the surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the county.
The requirement takes effect immediately, Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said in a news conference, despite a state law limiting local pandemic mandates.
Levine Cava also addressed the "enormous, alarming" rise of COVID-19 infections and urged everyone to get vaccinated if they haven't done so.
“Please get the shot as soon as you can to protect yourself and your loved ones," she said, adding that the shot is the only thing to keep yourself and others safe, including mask-wearing in public settings and social distancing.
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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Florida is leading the nation in new COVID-19 infections, and Miami-Dade County is leading in the state.
The Department of Health’s latest data release shows 11,000 new cases of the virus in Miami-Dade, and the positivity rate is over 10%. Broward County saw 6,100 new cases, with a slightly higher positivity rate of 10.9%.
Miami-Dade will once again require hospitals to report key COVID-10 data daily, such as hospitalization numbers, bed capacity and how many ventilators will be in use.
“When the health care system is overwhelmed, that is extremely dangerous for all of us, so we must do our part to keep people out of the hospital. The only way we can do that is to vaccinate and take other protective measures," Levine Cava said.
Miami-Dade County Commissioner Jose "Pepe" Diaz tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month. He spoke at the briefing, encouraging the community to get vaccinated especially with the Delta variant on the rise.
"If I hadn't gotten the shot, who knows what would have happened?" Diaz said.
The mayor didn’t announce any mandates for businesses or restaurants but said she was strongly recommending that everyone wear masks in large crowds or close spaces. But Jacqueline Pirolo, the owner of Miami Beach restaurant Macchialina, had recently reinstated mandated masks for employees and patrons.
"As an industry, we cannot afford another closure, and as a society, we cannot afford any more lives," Pirolo said.
A state law signed in May gives Gov. Ron DeSantis the power to invalidate local emergency measures put in place during the pandemic, including mask mandates and limitations on business operations.
“We have all come too far. We have all sacrificed too much in this past almost year and a half. We cannot turn back now,” Levine Cava said. “It is essential that we do everything we can to keep building on the progress that we have made.”
The surge led Miami-Dade County to extend hours at five sites at which anyone can get free COVID-19 testing and free vaccinations.
For a list of all testing and vaccination sites in Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe counties, click here.