Miami-Dade County’s mayor has signed off on funding that will provide hundreds of contact tracers with funding amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic - but mayors of the county's biggest cities want more.
Mayor Carlos Gimenez announced the $14 million agreement will provide for an extra 250 tracers in the county through the end of the year.
“Miami-Dade County has been ready to step in and do whatever is possible within the state’s purview,” Gimenez said in a statement. “So, I’m very happy today that we are moving forward.”
During a Thursday press conference, mayors from four cities in Miami-Dade County called for a hiring of more, with Miami Mayor Francis Suarez asking for a total of 500 contact tracers to be added.
"We need 500 right now. We've seen the percentage of actual contacts drop to a dangerous level," Suarez said.
Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber, a former Democratic leader in the Florida Legislature, said this isn't about politics.
"All we're asking is for the state to do their job," Gelber said, adding that just 17 percent of people were traced last week.
"I don't think the public has a clue that (the percentage) was 17 percent this week," Gelber added. "Forget about the finger pointing. Let's just get that number over 90 percent each week."
Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert pointed to the continued long lines for testing at the Hard Rock Stadium site as the reason residents need to take personal responsblity.
"We're going to slow this down with masks, we're going to slow this down with social distancing. We're going to slow this down with responsibility," Gilbert said. "We're all looking at the same situation and trying to figure this out."
Contact tracers will work for Florida’s Department of Health while being paid by the county under funds received from the CARES Act from the federal government.
At a press conference Tuesday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Gimenez had a couple of awkward moments over reporter questions about who was in charge of the county’s contact tracing program and how many people were actually working to find and stop the virus from spreading locally.
At one point, DeSantis looked to Gimenez and said, “These guys have money. I know you’ve invested in contact tracing I believe?"
Responding to an NBC 6 question on if anyone was working as a contact tracer on the county’s dime, Mayor Gimenez said at the time, “No, we don’t."
At Thursday's meeting, Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez called that interaction "embarrassing".
"We need to have serious communication from the top to the bottom," Hernandez said. "Why at this stage of the game...are we asking 'where are the tracers?'"
The press conference came as Miami-Dade County will again limit county restaurants to outdoor dining, takeout and delivery starting Thursday amid the rising number of positive cases in recent weeks.
"That is an incredibly dramatic measure. If we're going to do that, we should do that as a community," Suarez said.
Hernandez added that he had not been invited to speak with Gimenez or take part in meetings, which came after Suarez said Wednesday that he hasn't spoken with Gimenez in three weeks.
"If he thinks he’s out of the loop, well then I think he needs to get in the loop," Gimenez told NBC 6 on Tuesday. "I don’t have a beef with the mayor, apparently, maybe he has one with me.”
Suarez said he was planning on calling Gimenez in the near future.