Miami Beach extended a state of emergency for an additional three weeks on Sunday to continue a crackdown on out-of-control spring break crowds amid fears of a spike in COVID-19 cases.
Maskless mobs of vacationing college students have packed streets, restaurants and bars of downtown Miami Beach, with activity — and some violence — hitting a frenzied peak at night.
Mayor Dan Gelber instituted a 72-hour state of emergency on Saturday. Officials voted unanimously to extend it from Thursday through Sundays until at least April 12 at a special City Commission meeting on Sunday.
It mandates an 8 p.m. curfew for the city’s downtown “entertainment district” and severely restricts traffic in sections during the nighttime “high impact period,” including shutting down the main drag of Ocean Drive.
City Manager Raul Aguila said the measures seek to “contain the overwhelming crowd of visitors and the potential for violence, disruption and damage to property” during spring break, The Miami Herald reported.
Local police have made over 1,000 arrests since early February; 51% of those arrested were from out of town. At least five officers have been hurt on the job, the department said.
“These aren’t your typical spring breakers,” Aguila said.
Gelber said at a press conference Saturday that “at night, there is no question that it becomes a place that feels … out of control. You see things that you realize shouldn’t happen, and no community should have to endure.” Aquila said then that the crowds were “overwhelming.”
Police rushed, tackled and fired pepper balls at hard-partying crowds the first night of the curfew Saturday to clear the streets and arrested at least a dozen people, CNN reported. Fifty people have been arrested since Friday, police report.
Critics and some city leaders believe college crowds have been particularly drawn to Miami Beach this year because of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ (R) lax COVID-19 regulations.
DeSantis himself cut loose on St. Patrick’s Day last Wednesday at packed Culhane’s Irish Pub in Jacksonville without a mask and ignoring social distancing regulations as he posed for photos.
Florida has already racked up 2 million cases of COVID-19, and more than 33,000 deaths. The national death toll from the pandemic is more than 540,000.
Some critics on Twitter suggested the spring breakers head to the governor’s mansion to party. But it’s closed to the public because of the pandemic.
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