Florida Politics: “Daniella Levine Cava calls for increased testing as Miami-Dade continues to lead the state in coronavirus cases”

Miami-Dade County continues to lead the state in confirmed COVID-19 virus cases. But County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava says plenty of unconfirmed cases remain — and officials must ramp up testing capacity in order to fully assess just how far the virus has spread.

As of a Monday morning update, Miami-Dade County was responsible for 1,632 of the state’s 5,473 confirmed COVID-19 cases. Levine Cava authored a letter to Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez outlining her argument.

“I remain deeply concerned with our lag in testing,” Levine Cava wrote.

“It was extremely frustrating to read this past weekend that the federal government has issued new directives that leave states and counties on their own for testing. This clearly is counterproductive and runs contrary to what medical experts advise.”

The federal government has set a limit of 250 tests per day per site. If more than 250 people show up, those tests will be run using state or local resources so long as they are available.

Levine Cava did thank Giménez for increasing the county’s messaging for residents to socially distance. The county recently implemented a safer-at-home order.

“I appreciate the increase of vital information coming from you and your team in the last few days,” Levine Cava wrote.

“I believe the steps taken in recent days have better positioned the county to respond to the crisis at hand.”

But the Commissioner argued the only way to move beyond those restrictions is to have a complete count of how many people are carrying the virus. Without a full understanding of who has the virus — and without a vaccine or reliable way to treat symptoms — health officials have urged Americans to cut down on social interactions until the virus’s spread is under control.

“We know that testing is the single best tool to combat the virus and treat patients,” the letter reads. “It is clear we are also on our own now with regards to expanded drive-thru testing. In our community, we must expand free testing beyond the few existing locations so we can triage and work to stabilize the crisis locally.”

Levine Cava called on those tests to be made more available outside known vulnerable populations.

“Much of our testing has been focused on seniors in Miami-Dade County, though the data now shows the vast majority of the positive cases here are people between 25 and 54 years old. Therefore, we must build capacity to test and screen all residents with symptoms and those exposed to the virus.”

Levine Cava is also running to be the county’s next Mayor. Though much of that campaigning has grinded to a halt due to those social distancing measures aimed a slowing the spread of the virus.

The letter also called on officials to secure additional testing kits and additional personal protective equipment.

“I remain confident that we will confront these trying times with a unified front and a confidence that our community will rise to the occasion like we do in every moment of crisis,” the letter said in closing.

“The important message you have sent that we are all potentially carrying the virus requires that we aggressively pursue a testing and equipment strategy that matches the message.”

View the original article here.

Miami Herald: ““Why don’t you have a mask?” Miami-Dade government carries on during coronavirus crisis”

When Ashley Sanders started her round of visits to the elderly this week as a county home-care aide, she said she had four medical masks issued by Miami-Dade. They had to last the entire week.

Her schedule required 20 stops at homes of people in their 80s and 90s by Friday, and she didn’t want to reuse masks. So Sanders said she ran out after one day, and had no choice but to make home visits with an uncovered face in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Today, my client asked: ‘Why don’t you have a mask?’ She’s scared,” Sanders, 33, said near the end of her workday on Friday. “It’s definitely scary. … We only get four masks for one week.”

The largest local government in Florida faces its steepest challenge ever in trying to keep its workforce healthy as a virus sweeps through the Miami-Dade population and faces global competition for the supplies needed to protect workers. The head of social services said there should be plenty of masks for home-care workers next week thanks to a recent delivery.

Most county services remain available, even as Miami-Dade is losing workers to quarantine and facing daunting challenges in how employees do their work.

Late Tuesday, Miami-Dade shut down its entire permitting building and shifted paperwork online after multiple employees tested positive for COVID-19. It also told the more than 400 county workers inside the building to self-isolate for 14 days.

The jarring news followed two days when the building was allowed to open and serve customers after an earlier COVID-19 diagnosis there. The building at 11805 SW 26th St. in Kendall had closed for 48 hours for cleaning the prior week after one employee tested positive for the virus.

From a Miami-Dade bus operator today as the county cuts service during coronavirus crisis. They’re issued one pair of gloves and one wipe per shift. @IRideMDT dir Alice Bravo confirmed the extreme rationing: “We need a lot more o these supplies.”

County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava said she’s been glad to see some departments shift office-bound employees to four-day work weeks, with 10-hour daily shifts. But she said more action is needed to send more county office workers home. “I am concerned,” she said. “But I do believe they’re pushing hard to take the proper precautions.”

NEW WAYS TO BOARD THE BUS IN MIAMI-DADE

At the start of the crisis, Miami-Dade’s transit system was issuing a single Clorox wipe to bus drivers before shifts. Now that transit fares are suspended, buses have closed off their front doors to make passengers board from the back.

“The operators are scared,” said Jeffery Mitchell, head of the county’s transit union. “They’re still getting one wipe and one pair of gloves. No masks.”

Alice Bravo, head of transit for the county, said Miami-Dade has been able to increase the frequency of wiping down buses now that schedules are cut and ridership is down by more than 60 percent. She said agency employees whose age or medical conditions make them more at risk for COVID-19 complications are being shifted away from driver roles to reduce risk, with some assigned to help with increased cleaning.

Transit, she said, remains in demand. “There are people who depend on the service,” she said. “They’re going to the doctor, they’re going to the grocery store.”

At Miami-Dade’s housing agency, residents of a senior complex in Miami that includes the Robert King High towers were recently instructed to halt all visits from children after a resident tested positive for COVID-19. A printed notice to residents also called for limited family visitation overall, and noted “staff is authorized to enforce these policies.”

“We’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing,” said Michael Liu, director of public housing for Miami-Dade. “We’re cleaning our common areas and our elevators three or four times a day.”

MIAMI-DADE’S SANITATION CREWS REMAIN FULLY STAFFED

The county employees driving Miami-Dade sanitation trucks no longer use fingerprint scanners to clock in for a shift, and residents who pull up to county recycling centers are told to keep their windows up and display driver licenses through the glass. Michael Fernandez, director of the county’s Solid Waste department, said so far the virus hasn’t hit drivers, who typically work alone in trucks assigned to them.

“We are not experiencing anything out of the ordinary with drivers getting sick,” he said. ”We’re staffing all our routes, and getting the garbage picked up.”

SPECIAL BATHS TO REMOVE CORONAVIRUS FOR SHELTER DOGS AND CATS

At the county animal shelter in Doral, workers are using a diluted hydrogen-peroxide bath for dogs and cats abandoned by owners suspected of COVID-19 exposure. The animals are then quarantined for five days with no direct human contact, said Kathleen Labrada, an assistant director at Animal Services.

She said based on guidance from the University of Florida’s veterinary school, dogs and cats don’t transmit COVID-19 but they can infect humans if the virus is on their fur or collars. “The dog you handle as a surface” and clean it, Labrada said.

So far, only three animals have sparked the COVID-19 treatment at Animal Services, including a dog from a family who came back from New York where a relative had contracted the virus. “There wasn’t good information about whether the dog had been exposed,” she said. “So we treated that as an exposure.”

Alex Muñoz, the agency’s director, said Animal Services is bracing for a surge in people abandoning pets as unemployment sweeps through Miami-Dade and sickness spreads. He said the Animal Services staff’s existing surgical supplies should last at least 30 days but that it’s been a challenge to secure replacements.

“We are in the same struggle that the human healthcare providers are in terms of the supply of gowns and masks,” Labrada said.

SUPPLY SHORTAGES IN HOME CARE

Supply shortages at the county’s home-care division within the Department of Community Action and Human Services has the union representing those employees calling on Miami-Dade to take action.

Se’Adoreia “Cee Cee” Brown, a local AFSCME president in Miami-Dade, said the county should reduce home visits to the number of masks available to each staff member.

“They don’t mind doing the work,” during the pandemic, but supply shortages needed to be addressed, Brown said. “They’re not only putting themselves at risk, but the clients they’re seeing.”

Lucia Davis-Raiford, director of the county’s social services arm, Community Action and Human Services, said the last week was challenging on supplies but that a back order has arrived that should mean ample masks in the coming week for homecare aides as they clean for clients and help some in the bathroom. She said she didn’t think masks were in such supply that only four would be issued to someone for an entire week.

“Thankfully, thankfully we have supplies,” she said. “That work is up close and personal.”

For Sanders, now in her seventh year providing home care, coronavirus has meant prowling Amazon for her own supply of masks and making do with goggles she purchased herself.

“I’ve got family who call and ask if I’m okay,” said Sanders, a Coconut Grove resident who said she earns about $15 an hour. “Because they know what kind of work I do.”

View the original article here.

Miami Herald: “State opening new Palm Beach County COVID-19 test site as feds pull back involvement”

In the coming days, dozens of Florida National Guardsmen will join healthcare workers and local government officials to open a new, drive-thru coronavirus testing site in Palm Beach County — a community of 1.5 million people where nearly one in four are older than 65.

And then the state is done opening new COVID-19 test sites. For now.

With the federal government pulling back on its involvement in mass-testing sites established at stadiums and convention centers across the country, and personal protection equipment for nurses, doctors and healthcare workers in short supply, Florida’s state government has no plans to establish any additional state-run testing sites at new locations, according to Jared Moskowitz, director of the state’s Division of Emergency Management.

Moskowitz told the Miami Herald that could change as the novel coronavirus outbreak evolves. But for now the state is focusing on areas where the virus is spreading in the community.

“At this moment, the state has no plans at this moment to pop up additional state sites,” Moskowitz said. “That doesn’t mean the facts on the ground can’t change.”

The decision to pause new state-run testing sites comes after the federal government informed Moskowitz that it would no longer sponsor drive-through testing sites that have led to thousands of people being tested at Hard Rock Stadium, the Orange County Convention Center and the TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville. The Federal Emergency Management Agency helped set up those locations, providing enough sampling supplies and protective gear to test up to 250 senior citizens and medical professionals each day.

The shift from the state and federal governments does not mean that no new testing sites will come online in Florida: Municipalities and hospitals have teamed up to open small and large sampling locations, such as one recently established at Marlins Park. Nor does it mean the state will be on the hook for the costs of testing given that Florida can seek reimbursement after President Donald Trump declared a “major disaster” in the state.

“At this time, we are not planning to stand-up any additional [community-based testing sites] in Florida,” a Health and Human Services spokesperson said in a statement issued to the Miami Herald. “We recommend that the state, county or the private sector … establish their own testing sites, and request supplies through the established system.”

But the change does reflect the challenge facing neighborhoods clamoring for wider availability of testing as the number of confirmed cases in Florida topped 3,000 Friday. And the announcements come as politicians and healthcare workers call on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to order a statewide lockdown and ramp up testing to prevent the spread of the virus — with some questioning his logic that there is no need to shutter counties with few confirmed cases.

“I’m hearing from experts nationally that the only way to really contain this [virus] is people need to stay home,” Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the only statewide elected Democrat, said Friday on the WLRN Florida Roundup.

DeSantis says he’s focusing on counties with large numbers of cases, such as Miami-Dade, which had 869 confirmed cases as of Friday night. DeSantis said during a press conference that the state would be “pushing out 1,000 swabs” soon to Miami-Dade, Broward, and Hillsborough counties, but acknowledged that supplies such as swabs and protective gear are “in short supply around the world.”

In Miami-Dade, where two large testing sites are open at sports stadiums in addition to smaller testing locations, some officials are growing frustrated as they wait for additional sites to come online in the far-flung corners of the sprawling metropolis.

“We know that testing is the single best tool to combat the virus and treat patients,” said Miami-Dade Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, who has been pushing to open a testing site in her South Miami-Dade district. “In Miami-Dade, we must expand free testing beyond the two locations so we can triage and work to stabilize the crisis locally.”

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez intends to open additional testing sites as soon as possible, according to spokeswoman Myriam Marquez. A drive-through testing site at Tamiami Park that will not open up was prematurely announced Thursday night, Marquez said, but Gimenez continues to push for new sites.

“The mayor is trying to open up sites, county-run if they have to be,” Marquez said. “That’s not the issue. It’s finding the right site and having the tests.”

Local officials looking to the state for assistance Friday were told that the focus remains on Palm Beach County, where state data shows there have been fewer than 2,000 tests. DeSantis on Friday announced the coming site, which, according to Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner, will likely open at the FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches spring training facility.

“If you look at Palm Beach’s numbers, they’ve not had nearly the amount of testing as Dade and Broward,” DeSantis said, noting that the state has tested almost 10,000 people at its sites. “It’s important to expand the testing there so we can get a better sense of what’s going on.”

The federal government’s decision not to get involved has complicated logistics. Kerner and County Administrator Verdenia Baker said they were in negotiations to nail down details ofhow the site would be run and funded Friday evening.

But Kerner said the lack of involvement by the federal government would not keep the county — where President Trump claims a permanent residence — from opening its first mass-testing site and serving its senior citizens.

“I’m not surprised that FEMA’s over-stretched at this point,” he said. “I’m not really going to rely on federal help at this point because this is a nationwide pandemic.”

View the original article here.

Miami Herald: Miami mayor calls emergency meeting on possible stay-at-home order for city residents

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez on Monday called for an emergency meeting this week to discuss what’s needed for a mandatory “shelter-in-place” order and a curfew during the coronavirus emergency.

Such an order would impose new restrictions on people leaving their homes in a city of more than 400,000 people, where previous emergency orders have already closed parks and restaurants and shuttered countless businesses in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 during a global pandemic.

If Miami followed the practice of California, Illinois, New York and other states, a shelter-in-place order would allow movement for a string of “essential” activities, including dog walking, grocery shopping and travel to work for vital businesses like grocery stores and hospitals.

Suarez called for the meeting to be held Wednesday at 8 p.m. using phone or video technology, with the five commissioners and the public participating remotely. Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an order last week suspending a state law requiring members of an elected body to convene at a single location.

Commissioner Alex Diaz de la Portilla said he tried to call a special meeting on his own last week. But when he failed to secure signatures from two other members on the five-member board, Diaz de la Portilla said Suarez accepted his request to use the mayor’s authority to set a commission meeting and that he’s sponsoring the legislation required for a shelter-in-place decree.

“We should have done this last Friday,” Diaz de la Portilla said of a shelter-in-place order. “People are playing basketball. They’re not exercising personal responsibility.”

Commissioner Ken Russell, who spent part of the weekend testing out technology for an unprecedented remote meeting, said the city probably isn’t ready to reproduce the kind of Zoom-style video chat that would let the public participate in real time. Instead, a citizen wishing to speak would likely have to send in a recording during public comment or an email.

“It doesn’t look like we will have the bandwidth to have the public stream in and have their voice heard by the commission,” Russell said.

The commissioner said he’s not ready to commit to attending the meeting. Quorum rules are still in effect, meaning at least three of the five commissioners must participate. Russell said he needs assurances first that citizens can use the voicemail or email option to be heard. “We’re close,” he said.

The Suarez announcement states other coronavirus topics are on the proposed agenda, including meals for seniors, COVID-19 testing at Marlins Park, and general briefing about the crisis. Suarez would need an opinion from city lawyers that Miami has emergency powers to confine residents to their homes.

If they find Suarez doesn’t have that authority, commissioners could request a stay-at-home decree from Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez or Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. On Monday, county Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, a 2020 candidate for county mayor, released a letter calling on Gimenez to issue a shelter-in-place order for Miami-Dade’s more than 2.7 million residents.

After a weekend where Gimenez issued a late-night order closing marinas to stop packed boat parties reported by the Miami Herald, Levine Cava said not enough people are heeding calls to stay at home and avoid gatherings.

“The headlines from this weekend reaffirm why we need to move swiftly because too many are not following the guidance from the CDC, state and local officials on social distancing,” Levine Cava wrote.

At a press conference Monday, DeSantis continued to resist a statewide order, arguing the experience of other states shows they don’t work because people won’t comply.

“At the end of the day, you’re going to have a group of people that are not going to comply, that are going to put themselves first,” he said Monday. “I would just say for those folks, you need to cool it.”

Click here to read the original article.

Miami Gov: “City Launches In-Home COVID-19 Testing Service for Homebound Seniors”

This week, the City of Miami, through its Department of Fire-Rescue community paramedicine program, is launching a COVID-19 home testing service for senior citizens who reside within the boundaries of the City of Miami and are unable to drive or otherwise arrange transportation. Homebound local seniors ages 65 and above who are experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19 or who believe they may have been exposed to the virus should call the City’s testing call center at 305-960-5050 to determine if they qualify for a no-out-of-pocket cost, in-home test.

“Our seniors are at especially high risk in terms of the COVID-19 cornonavirus, so we’re prioritizing them in our emergency response efforts,” said Miami City Manager Arthur Noriega V. “We’re optimistic that we will be able to help more of our senior residents by serving them where they live, and I applaud our Department of Fire-Rescue for building this program so quickly and under difficult circumstances.”   

The new service aims to assist Miami’s sizeable population of seniors, who are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19. Trained call takers will interview homebound seniors and, depending on their feedback, will schedule Miami Fire-Rescue EMS personell to make a home visit to administer the COVID-19 test. Test kits will then be sent away to a lab for analysis, with results provided to the requestor within two to four days. The new home visit program will initially operate between 9:00am and 7:00pm daily. 

View the original article here.

Miami Herald: What do you need or what can you give in this crisis? We’re connecting people with people

Anyone who lived through Hurricane Andrew knows South Florida is capable of coming together in a time of crisis.

That’s why the Miami Herald is launching People Helping People to assist local people in meeting the challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

As cases grow throughout South Florida and all over the state, we face many difficulties.

Closed restaurants, bars, stores and hotels have led to layoffs and deepening economic crisis. With schools shut down, working parents must scramble to find childcare. Medical workers and staff at assisted living facilities are confronting the enormous task of caring for a population in danger of infection.

Our neighbors have lost paychecks and stability. We have all lost peace of mind.

But we are strong, and as we distance ourselves to get through this, we can also come together.

Maybe you need or have to offer food, a job or housing. Some agencies stand ready to help as well.

For instance, you can apply for Reemployment Assistance (formerly known as unemployment compensation) if you were working in Florida.

Feeding South Florida has launched a COVID-19 Response Fund to help support those in need. The nonprofit serves Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe counties, including access to its food pantry and home delivery.

Big companies also are coming to the rescue, with breaks on bills for internet and phone service.

But help also comes in the form of regular people helping people. If you can help, let us know how. And if you need help, let us know what we can do.

Connect by filling out the form below.

We come from everywhere, but we’re a community.

Click here to fill out the form.

Click here to read the original article.

Miami Herald: Gig workers faced an economic crisis long before the coronavirus arrived

The spread of COVID-19, caused by the coronavirus, has made one thing devastatingly clear: Gig workers in Miami and across the country have long been living in a state of emergency. Often associated with apps like Uber and Handy, a gig worker is anyone who performs work on a temporary or on-demand basis, including day laborers, domestic workers and platform economy workers. A recent report, “The Gig Economy and Florida’s Workforce System,” notes the challenges that gig workers face in Florida: income insecurity, a lack of labor protections and a lack of access to benefits and insurance programs.

Nationwide, an estimated 30 percent to 40 percent of workers participate in the gig economy. Across industries, gig work is rapidly becoming the norm, threatening to reshape the future of work toward more precariousness and exploitation. Few local and state governments have tried to rein in this labor reorganization. Miami-Dade County has opened the door to anti-worker corporations like Uber, which are piloting platforms like UberWorks to make dangerous expansions into our local labor market.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a wake-up call to the threats posed by the “gig-ification” of work. While a public health crisis affects us all, gig workers face a compounded financial crisis. As low-wage workers living paycheck to paycheck, many gig workers must work to survive. As the economy slows down and residents retreat into their homes, gig workers, including day laborers, may soon be out of work and out of sight. Our laws will leave them without access to a basic safety net such as unemployment assistance.

Excluded from paid sick leave and proposals to temporarily expand it, gig workers who do find work face a dilemma: Lose wages or risk exposure. Despite calls to stay home to help “flatten the curve” of COVID-19, many gig workers cannot afford to lose life-sustaining wages. The lack of protections for gig workers impacts everyone. Vulnerable populations, like the elderly, must decide between risking exposure or going without services they need, like domestic work and on-demand delivery.

It only gets worse. Gig workers in Florida are often uninsured or underinsured in our dysfunctional healthcare system. Classified (or misclassified) as independent contractors, many are not provided health insurance through an employer. Without guaranteed healthcare from their government, they cannot afford testing or treatment without incurring out-of-pocket expenses or medical debt.

The good news: COVID-19 is sparking local action to protect workers. Athletes from the Miami Heat, Florida Panthers and Miami Marlins have pledged financial support for arena workers. Team owners should follow their lead. UNITE HERE Local 355 is mobilizing an Education and Support Fund for hospitality workers facing reduced hours and layoffs. Mutual-aid initiatives are being coordinated by the Community Emergency Operations Center. Responsible employers of domestic workers are heeding the call of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and adopting fair-care standards, including safety equipment, flexible scheduling, paid sick leave and portable benefits.

Miami-Dade County has also stepped up by suspending eviction activities and utility shut-offs and guaranteeing school meals during school closures. This is a good start, but we must do more. Our government, business and philanthropic institutions should follow the lead of cities such as Seattle and Charlottesville and create COVID-19 response funds, including emergency grants and interest-free loans to help support and stabilize gig workers. Government officials should adopt policies from the Emerging Community Priorities from Florida Grassroots Organizations and expand coverage and protections for undocumented and other excluded workers.

We must also plan beyond this pandemic and create permanent protections for gig and other low-wage workers, including expanded labor rights and benefits, universal basic income and government-guaranteed healthcare. COVID-19 has revealed the cracks in an economy and government that leave millions of people behind. Even before COVID-19, gig workers already were facing a public-health crisis caused by poverty wages, soaring rents,and a lack of healthcare.

It’s time we address that crisis, too.

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Commissioner Daniella: COVID-19 Emergency Briefing Memo

FROM: Honorable Daniella Levine Cava, Commissioner, District 8

TO: Honorable Audrey Edmonson, Chairwoman

DATE: March 20, 2020

Thank you for your leadership during this challenging time. I appreciate that a BCC meeting was called for April 7th, however, with Governor Ron DeSantis issuing Executive Order 20-69 moments ago, I would request that an emergency briefing call be held on Monday to update the BCC on the latest response and to urge the Mayor to activate our Emergency Operations to Level 1.

The Governor’s Executive Order rightfully suspends any Florida Statute that requires a quorum to be present in person or requires a local government body to meet at a specific public place and states that local governments may utilize communications media technology, such as telephonic and video conferencing, as provided in section 120.54(5)(b)2., Florida Statutes.

I believe it’s imperative that we have a full briefing on our community’s response and next steps that are coming from our state and federal partners.

Click here to read the original memo.

Commissioner Daniella: COVID-19 Response Memo

FROM: Honorable Daniella Levine Cava, Commissioner, District 8

TO: Honorable Carlos A. Gimenez Mayor

DATE: March 19, 2020

I want to thank you for updating the community on the County’s response to COVID-19 virus as the seriousness of this pandemic becomes increasingly apparent. Both the Florida Emergency Operations Center and FEMA have moved to a Level 1 activation due to the severity of the situation we’re confronting. The County remains at a Level 2. Wouldn’t the coordination of resources and information be more in line with the State and Federal emergency posture if we fully activated our EOC?

As our community continues to grapple with this growing emergency, there are a few matters that must be addressed to ensure the safety and wellbeing of County residents:

Access to Testing

• I had requested that we accelerate the pace of testing and that we deploy drive-through testing sites in Miami-Dade. I was relieved that Jessie Trice Community Health System had opened the County’s first drive-through testing site in South Miami-Dade at the Doris Isom Health Center. I would urge that more capacity for drive-through testing come online soon that can serve residents in North, Central and Western Miami-Dade.

Access to food for those in need

• I am glad for the great lengths that our County agencies and nonprofit partners have gone to in order to ensure that our seniors have continuing access to meals after the closure of senior centers. Unfortunately, for a large portion of our population, a regular day is a struggle to meet basic needs. During this emergency, many in our community who would have sought help from food pantries and other emergency meal centers also need help. I would ask that we get an update on efforts to provide meals for anyone in need

Transit

• County transit service currently remains available to residents who must travel to work or to stores for essential items. Because transit is being used for purposes essential to address the ongoing emergency, fares should be eliminated until the declaration of emergency is lifted. I urge you eliminate fares on Metrorail and Metrobus and clearly communicate to the public that transit use should be reserved for those who must get to work and those who need to travel to purchase essential supplies. • It is incumbent upon Miami-Dade County to ensure that transit trips are safe and clean. Therefore, I am requesting that you increase the frequency of sanitizing our rail cars and buses and provide hand sanitizer to transit patrons on county buses.

Shelter in Place

• Finally, thank you for your leadership in closing all but the essential stores. I believe a clear message must be sent that residents should shelter in place to abate the spread of the virus.

Click here to read the original memo.

Miami Herald: Lost your job? Need food? Internet? These places can help during the coronavirus crisis

COVID-19 has turned South Florida upside down.

Miami-Dade County has ordered all bars to shut their doors. Restaurants are converting into takeout and delivery. Stores are closing. And people are making less money or suddenly out of work.

If you’re left in need during this time, there are resources available.

WHAT CAN I DO IF I’M LAID OFF OR NOT BEING PAID BECAUSE OF COVID-19?

You can apply for Reemployment Assistance (formerly known as unemployment compensation) if you were working in Florida and are now:

▪ Quarantined by a medical professional or a government agency.

▪ Laid off or sent home without pay for an extended period of time because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

▪ Caring for an immediate family member who is diagnosed with COVID-19.

To learn more about the program and how you can apply online, visit http://www.floridajobs.org/Reemployment-Assistance-Service-Center/reemployment-assistance/claimants

JWorks Miami has moved operations online to continue helping Jewish job-seekers in Miami-Dade County find a job. The program helps residents develop resumes and cover letters, hosts mock interviews (which will be online during the COVID-19 outbreak), and network with potential employers. The program is free to job seekers and employers through a partnership between the Greater Miami Jewish Federation and Jewish Community Services of South Florida.

To learn more, visit jewishmiami.org/jworks/

COVID-19 HAS AFFECTED MY SMALL BUSINESS. WHAT CAN I DO?

Gov. Ron DeSantis has activated the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program to support small businesses affected by the novel coronavirus. The bridge loan program will provide short-term, interest-free loans to small businesses who were financially impacted by COVID-19.

Applications will be accepted through May 8.

For more information on the program, visit www.floridadisasterloan.org. For questions, contact the Florida Small Business Development Center Network at 866-737-7232 or email Disaster@FloridaSBDC.org.

Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity is also encouraging business owners to complete the Business Damage Assessment Survey to help officials determine what the best recovery resources for businesses are. To fill out the survey, visit floridadisaster.biz/BusinessDamageAssessments.

I NEED HELP FEEDING MY FAMILY DURING THE COVID-19 SHUTDOWN. WHERE CAN I GO?

All public schools in Miami-Dade County are giving breakfast and lunch to students in need. The district says it plans on distributing food during spring break as well but has not announced distribution times or locations yet.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried has activated the Summer BreakSpot website because 71.9 percent of students in Florida public schools receive free or reduced lunches. The program has 934 sites across the state that serve meals to school age children. The program is expected to start in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties on March 23. It starts March 20 in Broward. To learn more, visit summerbreakspot.freshfromflorida.com/

Feeding South Florida has launched a COVID-19 Response Fund to help support those in need during the novel coronavirus pandemic. The nonprofit serves Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe County and provides “direct-service programs” including benefits application assistance, access to its food pantry and home delivery for qualified individuals.

Those who require assistance can visit feedingsouthflorida.org/benefits-emergency-services/ to apply.

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Miami says it’s talking with local and state government to see where aid is needed and is recommending people stay in contact with their local parishes through the website and social media for updates.

The Archdiocese says its “elderly service” program is still providing meals to those in need who are 60 or older, live independently in their homes and are registered with the program. Instead of serving the food at its 12 senior centers across South Florida, employees are delivering meals to homes.

As of Wednesday, Jewish Community Services JCS Kosher Food Bank in North Miami Beach remains open. The food bank, which helps provide kosher meals, is by appointment only to keep the privacy of its visitors. Those who are interested should call 305-576-6550 to apply.

The Federation says it’s also looking for healthy volunteers to assist in delivering groceries or medical supplies to members of the community who are at higher risk of falling ill such as senior citizens or are homebound. Those interested in volunteering can email Volunteer@gmjf.org.

Farm Share is hosting several drive-thru only food drives in South Florida to help during the COVID-19 shutdown. To get food, attendees must arrive to the locations in a vehicle that has a trunk or cargo bed. The nonprofit says it expects to feed more than 500 families at the following events:

▪ March 24 — 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Joseph’s Storehouse, 2961-2967 NW 27th St. Building 12 in Lauderdale Lakes

▪ March 25 — 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Ark of the City, 6100 NW Second Ave.

The nonprofit says it’s looking to partner with individuals, corporations or municipalities to host additional food drives. Anyone who is interested in donating or partnering with Farm Share is asked to visit http://farmshare.org for more information.

I NEED INTERNET BUT CAN’T PAY BILLS BECAUSE OF COVID-19. WHAT OPTIONS DO I HAVE?

Xfinity and AT&T have opened up Wifi hotspots across the country for the next 60 days so everyone can have access to the Internet for free, including non-customers. To find a hotspot near you visit wifi.xfinity.com and att.com/support/article/wireless/KM1103818/

Verizon and Xfinity have also agreed to waive late fees and not terminate the service of any customer who can’t pay their bill because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

AT&T has also promised to waive late fees and not terminate the service of any wireless, home phone or broadband residential or small business customer who is unable to pay their bills because of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Its also giving unlimited internet data to its home internet wireless and fixed internet customers.

T-mobile is giving all current T-Mobile and Metro by T-Mobile customers unlimited data for the next 60 days (excluding roaming), an additional 20GB of mobile hotspot/tethering service, and free international calling to any country listed as a Level 3 during the pandemic. As of Wednesday, the CDC lists the following countries as Level 3: China, Iran, South Korea and most European countries, including the United Kingdom and Ireland.

T-mobile says its also working to provide customers extra free data up to 5GB per month over the next two months for its Lifeline customers.

I’M AN ESSENTIAL EMPLOYEE DURING COVID-19. WHERE CAN I DROP OFF MY CHILD?

Select YMCA’s in both Miami-Dade and Broward will be providing child care services for kids of first responders, healthcare workers as well as city and county staffers. Some YMCA’s have a broader criteria.

To find a YMCA near you and to learn more about the program, visit https://ymcasouthflorida.org/schools-out/

CRISIS INTERVENTION HOTLINES TO KNOW DURING COVID-19 OUTBREAK

Call 211 for help in connecting to the various health and human resources available in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, including food banks, financial assistance and domestic violence hotlines.The24-hour helpline provides information in English, Spanish and Creole. Remember, for emergencies, call 911.

You can also call 211 in Broward County for help finding food, housing, healthcare, senior services, child care, and additional services.

Greater Miami Jewish Federation Emergency Hotline for emergency counseling, financial aid, food, domestic abuse assistance and other services — 305-576-6550

Domestic Violence Hotline — 800-962-2873

Rape Hotline — 305-585-7273

Suicide Prevention /SAFENET — 305-358-HELP (4357)

Department of Children and Families — 305-377-5773

Elder Help Line (8:00a.m. – 5:00p.m.) — 305-670-4357

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