Miami Beach received a curfew and a state of emergency after police fired pepper balls to disperse crowds of revelers who defied coronavirus safety guidelines over the weekend.
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.”
The turmoil came as Florida passed the 2 million Covid-19 cases.
Raul Aguila, interim city administrator of the popular Florida resort, issued the curfew after police expressed “ deep concern ” about the larger-than-expected spring break crowd, who sometimes descended into street fights and property destruction.
The city ordered a 8:00 pm curfew in a designated “high-impact zone” of its busiest streets, including the popular Ocean Drive, a series of bars, clubs and restaurants.
Ocean Drive was closed to pedestrians and vehicles, except for residents, hotel guests, and employees of local businesses.
All food outside was suspended in the high impact zone, while takeout orders had to be halted at midnight.
Bar and restaurant owners told local media they feared the new order could reverse the profits they made from the Spring Break crowds to help them recover from the pandemic.
Police blocked most of the traffic on three roads connecting Miami Beach to the rest of the Miami metropolitan area to keep out new visitors.
Aguila told the Miami Herald that he recommended that the emergency measures be maintained until April 12 or the end of Spring Break.
The Miami Beach curfew came days after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, suggested the state would further relax Covid-19’s restrictions.
The Florida Department of Health announced 5,105 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 on Saturday, bringing the state total to 2,004,362 coronavirus cases since the pandemic began.
A further 64 deaths were recorded, bringing the total number of fatalities to 33,337. Among those who died, 32,713 were residents and 624 were non-residents.