Mayors of Miami, Miami-Dade Urge Mask Usage Amid Phase 3 Reopening

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said the county will continue to issue citations for wearing masks, though fines won't be collected

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The mayors of Miami-Dade County and the City of Miami attempted to clarify the new regulations under the state's phase 3 reopening Tuesday, while also urging people to continue to wear face masks to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez held separate news conferences Tuesday to discuss what's changed after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis moved the entire state to Phase 3 on Friday.

DeSantis issued an order allowing restaurants and other businesses across the state to immediately reopen at full capacity under Phase 3. The order prevents cities and counties from ordering them to close or operate at less than half-capacity, unless they can justify a closure for economic or health reasons.

DeSantis also banned local fines against people who refuse to wear masks.

In a virtual news conference, Gimenez said the county will continue to issue citations for wearing masks, though fines won't be collected.

"Local governments can still have health regulations to make sure all businesses are opening as safely as possible," Gimenez said.

Suarez, speaking at City Hall, said the city was working with the county to comply with DeSantis' order, saying he's received countless phone calls since it was issued.

"I know that there has been a lot of confusion about what's open and what's not," Suarez said. "It even took us a couple days to fully understand what the rules are."

Suarez urged people to continue wearing masks, saying the city has seen a 90% drop in the spread of coronavirus since implementing a mask rule.

"This is not about having to pay a fine, experts agree that wearing a mask is the most effective measure to prevent the spread of the virus," Suarez said. "We need to be responsible for ourselves and our loved ones.

Bars and restaurants can operate at 100% if they keep six feet of social distancing between tables in place, but they can still be fined or closed if they don't comply, Suarez said. Food and beverages can only be consumed when people are seated, and loud music isn't permitted, in an attempt to stop people from yelling, Suarez said.

Nightclubs are allowed to reopen but people should wear masks on dance floors, Gimenez said.

In parks, anyone not playing must wear a mask and keep a six-foot distance, and playgrounds will remain closed, Suarez said.

Suarez said he has expressed concerns with Gimenez and DeSantis about the reopenings.

"I have expressed my concerns that this acceleration could send the wrong message that COVID-19 is no longer a threat in our community," Suarez said.

He said he also spoke with White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Deborah Birx on Tuesday about the reopenings.

"She expressed deep concerns about the new orders, I share her concerns," he said.

Both Miami-Dade and Broward officials moved quickly to adapt the counties' existing emergency orders to fit the new standards set by Gov. DeSantis. NBC 6's Carlos Suarez and Arlene Borenstein have more.

Philippe Kalifa, a business owner and president of the Wynwood Bar association, said restaurants and bars were trying to sort out what they can and can't do.

"Most of us can reopen at 100% capacity but I can assure you we’re not doing so because with social distancing you can't open at 100% capacity and we’re still trying to be mindful and respectful of the guidelines in place," Kalifa said.

Coco Cogi, owner of Le Chick restaurant in Wynwood, said there's been a lot of confusion among customers.

"It doesn’t mean the virus has gone away, like we still have to be careful," Cogi said. "People are coming in without their masks and asking why they have to wear a mask because the governor said we’re not supposed to be wearing a mask."

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