South Florida Leaders Plan to Lift COVID-19 Restrictions

Sheri-Kae McLeod, CNW reporter

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A police officer on an ATV patrols in Miami Beach, Florida's famed South Beach, Monday, March 22, 2021. A party-ending curfew is in effect in Miami Beach, imposed after fights, gunfire, property destruction and dangerous stampedes broke out among huge crowds of people. The curfew could extend through the end of spring break. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

With COVID-19 positivity rates and hospitalizations decreasing and more residents getting vaccinated, South Florida leaders are planning a complete return to normalcy.

Last week, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava announced that the county will lift its midnight curfew on Monday, April 12. Miami-Dade is the only county in the state of Florida that still has a nightly curfew on non-essential businesses, restaurants, and bars. Levine Cava also announced that starting on Tuesday, April 13, daycares will be able to double capacity and senior centers will be allowed to reopen.

Similar plans are in the works elsewhere in South Florida, in Broward County. Mayor Steve Geller has proposed that the county lift social distancing and capacity restrictions.

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His phase 1 reopening would include lifting distancing requirements for hotels, lifting capacity and distancing requirements for restaurants, outdoor gatherings and non-professional sporting events and lifting capacity limits on retail establishments, charter boats and house parties.

But Geller said the county needs to get to a 50 percent vaccination rate and a 5% positivity rate for 10 days first.

“At our current vaccination number, which was 540,000 as of yesterday [April 5], and at the rate we are going of about 11,000 a day, we expect that within in about three weeks we will hit the 50% vaccination rate in Broward,” Geller said. “And then, I can’t tell you when we are going to get back to 5% positive.”

According to the Florida Health Department, as of April 11, some 34% of Broward residents had received at least their first dose of the vaccine. The positivity rate for the last two weeks has been between six and seven percent.

If the COVID-19 vaccination trend is consistent, Broward could see a lifting of restrictions in early May, contingent on the positivity rate. But the commissioners say that the wearing of masks will be the last COVID-19 measure to be lifted.

Jamaican-born Commissioner Dale Holness says masks have been essential in slowing the spread of the virus.

“The science has proven that it works. We don’t have a flu season this year because we’ve been wearing our masks and taking all these measures. So the folks who say the masks don’t work, not true. It does work,” he said.

Mayor Steve Geller says he is optimistic that the county can get to Phase 1 of his reopening plan by next month. But only if more residents get vaccinated and continue to wear masks.