Miami Beach fell under a curfew and a state of emergency after police fired pepper balls to disperse crowds of revelers who defied Covid’s safety guidelines Saturday night.
Outdoor restaurant seating was suspended and roads closed in parts of the city, one of the most popular tourist attractions in the US for the annual spring break. Braving curfew, hundreds of people walked the streets of Miami Beach late Saturday night, prompting police to intervene aggressively to tear the crowd apart.
“To be honest, I am concerned that we can deal with this behavior more and more,” Miami Beach Police Chief Richard Clements said at a news conference on Saturday. “All we’re focusing on right now is public safety.”
Miami Beach and other Florida cities had previously reported crowds of tourists arriving for spring break, with students from more than 200 schools expected to crowd the state’s beaches.
Some US cities have moved to relax Covid requirements as the US ramps up their vaccination efforts, raising fears of a new wave of infections due to the spread of coronavirus variants.
The Miami curfew came days after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, suggested the state would further relax Covid-19’s restrictions. Last week, DeSantis issued an executive order for remission of fines imposed by local governments over the past year for pandemic-related crimes, which goes beyond any enforcement or Covid-19-related orders taken by the state.
DeSantis is considered a rising star in the Republican Party, in part because of his handling of the pandemic. Florida has a large population of seniors who have not been hit by the pandemic as hard as previously expected in 2020.
“We are going in the right direction,” he said at a press conference on Thursday. ‘We don’t have any lockdowns. No Florida mandates. “
Tourism is an important part of the Florida economy, generating billions of dollars in tax revenue. But the number of visitors dropped to 86.7 million in 2020, down 34 percent from a year earlier, according to state statistics. And hotel bookings are down about 25 percent at the end of February from 2019.
Despite the increasing availability of Covid-19 vaccines across the country, people are still dying. On Saturday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo reported 62 deaths in the state. Arizona and Iowa reported 12 and two deaths, respectively, over the weekend, the Associated Press reported on Sunday.
Also on Saturday, New York reported the first case in a resident of the state of Covid-19 variant P.1, a type first discovered in Brazil. The patient is from Brooklyn, is over 90 and has no travel history, Cuomo’s office said.
Florida reported no Covid-19 deaths on March 19, the most recent date available, compared with 60 deaths on March 6. The state reported 5,040 cases on March 19, compared to 4,070 on March 6.