Florida (Reuters) – Miami-Dade, Florida’s most populous county, became the latest U.S. coronavirus hotspot to roll back its reopening on Monday, shutting down on-site dining at restaurants, as cases surge nationwide by the tens of thousands and deaths topped 130,000.
The emergency order was handed down on Monday by Mayor Carlos Gimenez, the top official in the county that includes Miami and surrounding areas and has some 48,000 COVID-19 cases among its 2.8 million residents.
The move whiplashed restaurateurs, who recently came back to work after an initial weeks-long shutdown was lifted, leaving them frustrated and even more worried about the survival of their businesses.
“We’re burned out emotionally, we’re burned out financially, and we’re burned out from the trauma of seeing everything that’s happening,” said Karina Iglesias, a partner at the popular downtown Miami Spanish restaurants Niu Kitchen and Arson.
Michael Beltran, chef-partner at Ariete Hospitality Group which owns a handful of other popular Miami restaurants including Taurus, was struggling to come to terms with having to tell most of his 80 employees – many of whom were rehired for reopening – that they would again be unemployed.
“From what they told me I did the proper things (to reopen), and now we’re at this point,” Beltran said.
Florida reported another daily record of new cases with 11,000 on Monday, more than any European country in a day at the height of the crisis there.
Infections are on the rise in 39 states, according to a Reuters tally, and 16 have posted record daily case counts in July. The country’s death toll crossed 130,000 on Monday and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention forecast that it could reach 160,000 later this month.
The alarming surge in daily new cases, which has been averaging around 50,000, has prompted many local leaders to consider slowing down or rolling back business reopenings to curb infection rates that are already overwhelming hospitals in some areas.
“We can tamp down the spread if everyone follows the rules, wears masks and stays at least six feet (2 meters) apart from others,” Gimenez said in a statement announcing the emergency order, which also closed ballrooms, banquet facilities, party venues, gyms and fitness centers, and short-term rentals.
Colleges and universities have also been forced to adjust their reopening plans. Harvard University on Monday announced that all undergraduate fall semester classes would be taught remotely and only 40% of the undergraduate student body would be permitted to live on campus.
Trump’s Response Under Scrutiny
U.S. cases approach 3 million – about a quarter of the entire global tally – scrutiny of President Donald Trump’s handling of the crisis has intensified.
Trump, who has suggested that states ought to reduce COVID-19 testing to cut down on the number of reported cases, said in a speech on Saturday that 99% of U.S. coronavirus cases were “totally harmless,” without providing evidence.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat who has repeatedly clashed with Trump over his efforts to tackle the health crisis, accused the Republican president of making up facts and said he was “enabling” the virus if he failed to address the severity of the situation.
“Acknowledge to the American people that COVID exists, it is a major problem, it’s going to continue until we admit it and each of us stands up to do our part,” Cuomo said, directing his comments at the president.
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on Monday defended Trump, saying the president was not trying to play down the deaths.
“But it’s really to look statistically to know that whatever risks that you may have or I may have, or my, my children or my grandchildren may have, let’s look at that appropriately and I think that’s what he’s trying to do,” Meadows told reporters outside the White House.