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 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. 

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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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