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.”

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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.

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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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Commissioner Daniella: COVID-19 Medical Support Memo

FROM: Honorable Daniella Levine Cava, Commissioner, District 8

TO: Honorable Carlos A. Gimenez Mayor

DATE: March 16, 2020

With the Emergency Operations Center at Level 2, I am repeating the request from my March 10th memo to engage in regular briefings with the Board of County Commissioners as we do during a hurricane activation.

Additionally, the only way to ensure that we’re truly addressing the true scope of this health emergency is to first have good data. That means significantly increasing screening of the public for exposure to the novel coronavirus. Governor Ron DeSantis has engaged the National Guard to assist Broward’s Public Hospital system to initiate drive-up testing.

The movement of people between Broward and Miami-Dade is the subject of every local news traffic report. Now that we are confronting community spread in South Florida with cases in both Counties, it is even more critical that Miami-Dade also offer drive-up testing as soon as possible.

Due to the delays in response from the Federal government that have led to the same pattern of infection and community spread witnessed in Europe, I am concerned that our hospital capacity could be overwhelmed if we cannot “flatten the curve” and delay the rate of spread of the novel coronavirus. Flattening the curve of infection rate is critical to maintaining our capacity to provide life-saving care to our large population of residents vulnerable to this disease. Our emergency operations public health emergencies plan includes contingencies for providing County land and temporary housing for quarantine/isolation purposes. In-home isolation is not practical in many apartment and congregate living settings. I would like to know what preparations are being made and how we might help in identifying locations for temporary shelter.

Click here to read the original memo.

Commissioner Daniella: COVID-19 Business Damage Assessment Memo

FROM: Honorable Daniella Levine Cava, Commissioner, District 8

TO: Honorable Carlos A. Gimenez Mayor

DATE: March 16, 2020

Governor Ron DeSantis has activated the Statewide Business Damage Assessment Survey to help track the types of assistance needed to help our businesses manage and recover from the novel coronavirus pandemic.

As an important part of our recovery effort, I am requesting that the County actively promote the survey tool to our business community. I’m also asking that the County seek the data submitted by Miami-Dade businesses, so we can better inform our response to local business and workforce needs.

I am requesting that the information about the Business Damage Assessment Survey be placed on the front page of the County website as well as the miamidade.gov/coronavirus page and that extra effort be made to promote the survey to our business community through our social media channels and other effective County information outlets.

Finally, I am also asking that the data shared by the State DEO with Miami-Dade from the survey be aggregated by Commission District and provided to each Commissioner.

Click here to read the original memo.

Commissioner Daniella: COVID-19 Updates Memo

FROM: Honorable Daniella Levine Cava, Commissioner, District 8

TO: Mayor Carlos Gimenez

DATE: March 10, 2020

The impact our community is seeing from the growing health crisis posed by COVID-19 now extends to the private sector and our economy. The stock market is bracing for mounting worries and economic metrics are showing great stresses that have not been felt since post-September 11th.

As we bring stakeholders together who are providing essential information on how best to address the public health challenge the Coronavirus poses to our community, we need to ensure we hear from business leaders and tourism executives to properly address the likely short term economic challenges we will confront over the next two to six months. We know that Miami-Dade’s economy is in large part driven by tourism and the new threats the Coronavirus presents worldwide will have an acute impact on our local economy.

Therefore, I would request the following information be provided to my colleagues and I, so we have current and ongoing information on key metrics to ensure we tackle this challenge from all sides.

  1. Major event or conference cancellations.
  2. Hotel occupancy cancellations or projected disruption to hotels.
  3. Updates on airline travel into Miami-Dade.
  4. Economic impacts from the cruise industry in our local economy.
  5. Projected revenue impacts to the County budget.
  6. Updated projections to County budget reserves.
  7. State and federal assistance programs for businesses impacted by health crisis.

I also believe that we should convene a standing briefing with your office and the Board of County Commissioners to ensure we have regular and ongoing information being shared with us and the community. I trust you would agree that the best tool to confront the challenges ahead is to have a strong coordinated and unified front.

Click here to read the original memo.

Commissioner Daniella: A Letter to Gov. DeSantis on COVID-19


FROM: Honorable Daniella Levine Cava, Commissioner, District 8

TO: Governor DeSantis

DATE: March 3, 2020

Governor DeSantis:

As our state confronts the threats of COVID-19, it’s imperative that all tools are deployed aggressively to triage the healthcare challenge our residents face.

We know that the best way to minimize the impact of the Coronavirus in our communities is to know who has it and for them to take appropriate medical care.

To that end, I believe that no Floridian should be denied the ability to be tested for Coronavirus because of barriers with their insurance plan, or due to lack of insurance coverage. In short, we must minimize, or eliminate, the financial burdens for any individual who needs to be tested.

I would urge you to mobilize the state’s Office of Insurance Regulation to implement any directives allowed under Florida law to waive fees for any patient who needs to be tested for COVID-19. Further, Floridians covered under Medicaid should also see any fees waived.

Equally important is to avoid denying individuals the ability to get tested when medical professionals recommend they do. The headlines late yesterday afternoon from our local CBS affiliate confirming that a patient was denied testing for COVID-19 is counterproductive to the strategies healthcare professionals have outlined to confront the crisis. CBS reported that “in what may be the first case of coronavirus in South Florida, a woman who recently returned home from Italy says she was told by doctors at Jackson Memorial Hospital that she “likely” has COVID-19, but that they are unable to verify it because state and federal officials refused to conduct the necessary tests to confirm it.” I know you are committed to deploying all available state resources and would urge you to ensure that testing kits be made available to test any patient a medical professional deems necessary. We must avoid scenarios like the one reported by CBS of a patient denied testing though she recently traveled to an area facing an outbreak.

These coordinated efforts will ensure that any high-risk patient, or those who feel they have been exposed to Coronavirus, can be properly tested and appropriate steps followed.

We stand ready in Miami-Dade County to be an equal partner with the state of Florida and your leadership to take decisive steps, in a unified front, to ease the challenges and mitigate the fears among our residents.

Yours in service, Daniella Levine Cava Miami-Dade County Commissioner, District 8

Click here to read the original memo.