Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez told CBS News on Sunday that the recent series of protests in the area “had a lot to do with” the rise in coronavirus cases in the state.
“You’ve put in some pretty stringent restrictions in the past few days on this holiday weekend, you put in place a curfew,” CBS News anchor Margaret Brennan said. “You’ve stopped alcohol from being served at hotels after 8:00 p.m., mask wearing. Are your residents now taking this threat seriously?”
“Well, I think they are, but I think my residents also kind of let their guard down around late-May, early-June, and also some of the protests that we had here, I think contributed to it,” Gimenez responded. “So we saw a rapid rise in young people in being positive to COVID-19 around mid-June. And I think that that had a lot to do with probably socializing, young kids going to parties, maybe graduation parties at homes, because it’s been pretty locked down here for some time.”
“We have a strict mask order inside. When you’re inside, since April 19th, you’re supposed to wear a mask,” Gimenez continued. “You’re supposed to wear a mask when you’re outside unless you can maintain social distancing. We changed that now to wearing a mask all the time.”
Gimenez said that there were numerous factors that contributed to the increase in coronavirus cases, but later added, “I think, obviously, the protests had a lot to do with it. We had, you know, thousands of young people together outside, a lot of them not wearing masks. And we know that when you’re – when you do that and you are talking and you are chanting, etc, that really spreads the virus.”
“So absolutely, the protests had something to do with it,” Gimenez added.
Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina said that his department saw a huge uptick in the number of officers that had contracted the disease after they had to work as part of the protest response teams.
“Last month, or perhaps less than a month ago, we had gotten down to where we had no employees in the police department sick with the virus,” Colina said. “Now I have 31 officers yet again who are COVID positive, I have six civilian employees who are COVID positive, and I have 115 people quarantined right now because of COVID. Many of the officers that I have sick were part of those protest response teams. That’s not acceptable.”
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MARGARET BRENNAN: We want to turn now to another mayor in another hot spot in South Florida. The mayor of Miami-Dade County is Carlos Gimenez, and he joins us from Miami this morning. Thank you for joining us, Mister Mayor.
CARLOS GIMENEZ (Mayor of Miami-Dade County): It’s a pleasure.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You’ve put in some pretty stringent restrictions in the past few days on this holiday weekend, you put in place a curfew, you’ve stopped alcohol from being served at hotels after 8:00 PM, mask wearing. Are your residents now taking this threat seriously?
CARLOS GIMENEZ: Well, I think they are, but I think my residents also kind of let their guard down around late-May, early-June, and also some of the protests that we had here, I think contributed to it. So we saw a rapid rise in young people in getting – being positive to COVID-19 around mid-June. And I think that that had a lot to do with probably socializing, young kids going to parties, maybe graduation parties at homes, because it’s been pretty locked down here for some time. We have a strict mask order inside. When you’re inside, since April 19th, you’re supposed to wear a mask. You’re supposed to wear a mask when you’re outside–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
CARLOS GIMENEZ: –unless you can maintain social distancing. We changed that now to wearing a mask all the time. We shut down the beaches this weekend. We restricted alcohol sales. We’ve also closed, again, some of the places where people can congregate like movie theaters and bowling alleys and casinos and all that, because we have seen a sharp rise in the positivity rate, just like they have in Houston.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So you do trace it to the protests because we just heard the mayor of Houston say that was not it. It was the restaurants, the businesses, and people gathering in those kind of situations.
CARLOS GIMENEZ: No, I think, no, I think it’s all the above. I think, obviously, the protests had a lot to do with it. We had, you know, thousands of young people together outside, a lot of them not wearing masks. And we know that when you’re – when you do that and you are talking and you are chanting, etc, that really spreads the virus. So–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay.
CARLOS GIMENEZ: So absolutely, the protests had something to do with it. But also our people, our residents, you know, did not – I think they let their guard down and started to socialize. And, again, that also had to do with it. So it’s all the above. I’m not saying it’s just that—
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
CARLOS GIMENEZ: –but it was a contributing factor.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Give us a sense of who is getting ill and how ill they are getting. Because as I asked the other mayor, the president said yesterday, 99% of these cases are totally harmless. What’s happening in Miami?
CARLOS GIMENEZ: Well, there’s a difference between what’s the official number and what’s the real number. We ran a study down here in Miami-Dade a couple of months ago that said over two hundred thousand people had already had the virus or had the virus at the time. So our official number is maybe forty thousand have officially had it. What concerns me is the positivity rate. We had it down to about eight percent of the people getting tested were showing up positive. Now they’re over twenty percent are showing up positive. That’s the problem for us. And so we have seen because we’ve seen an increase–
MARGARET BRENNAN: But and how ill are they getting, with hospitalizations and the degree of lethality to this? Because last week you were on Fox News and you said the good news here is that it’s not as lethal as people think it is. That seems–
CARLOS GIMENEZ: Yeah.
MARGARET BRENNAN: –in contradiction to your very stringent guidelines now.
CARLOS GIMENEZ: No, because, look, we just have more people that are being positive. And so the more you have at the end, you’re going to have more people, you know, pass away, unfortunately, because it’s just a question of numbers. And so we do have a lot of young people that have gotten positive results. We have seen an increase in the number of hospitalizations. We have seen an increase in the number of ICUs, and also an increase in the number of ventilations simply because we have – more of our people are actually testing positive, which indicates more of the people of Miami-Dade County are coming up with COVID-19. And so when you have more, you, obviously, will have more hospitalizations, more ICUs, more respirators–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
CARLOS GIMENEZ: –and, unfortunately, you’ll have more fatalities.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So you would agree that going on a respirator, being hospitalized, means that the virus is not harmless, as the president characterized it.
CARLOS GIMENEZ: No, the virus is not – no, no.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you.
CARLOS GIMENEZ: The virus is not harmless. No, absolutely not.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So that is – right.
CARLOS GIMENEZ: I mean that’s why – if it were harmless, I wouldn’t be taking the steps that we’re taking here in Miami-Dade.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Exactly. I want to ask you where the concentrations of clusters are.
CARLOS GIMENEZ: Well, initially, it started out in the middle of the city and also down south, and so we have our farm workers down south, and we had a big concentration down there. And then in the middle of the city in some of the poor neighborhoods we had concentrations, but now it’s spreading. And it’s spreading throughout the county. So we have what we call surge teams or people with over a hundred people. We go out. We give masks. We give hand sanitizers, information, and drive home the point that we have to wear our masks when they’re inside. We have to wear our masks outside. We have to wash our hands. We need to keep away from each other. And if we do that, if we act responsibly, then we can tap down the positivity rate, get it down below ten percent–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Wouldn’t it help you if–
CARLOS GIMENEZ: –which is where we need it to be.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Wouldn’t it help you if both your state’s governor and the president also issued that call?
CARLOS GIMENEZ: Well, look, the governor and I talk just about every day, and he allows us down here in Miami-Dade to do things a little differently because the virus has actually been more impactful here in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach than other parts of the state. And so it’s a big state, and there are, there are big differences between what’s happening up in the north part of the state–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
CARLOS GIMENEZ: –and what’s happening here in Miami-Dade.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah, that’s why I was asking you about your portion of the state.
MAYOR GIMENEZ: Yeah, right.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We wish very good luck in getting this under control. We want to leave it there and get–
CARLOS GIMENEZ: Thank you, Margaret. Appreciate it.