Thu | Aug 13, 2020

Miami-Dade County imposing restrictions after cases spike

Published:Monday | July 6, 2020 | 1:51 PM
Lines of cars wait at a drive-through coronavirus testing site, Sunday, July 5, 2020, outside Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. Florida health officials say the state has reached a grim milestone: more than 200,000 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus since the start of the outbreak. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

MIAMI (AP) — Florida’s biggest county ordered restaurants and gyms closed again Monday because of a rise in confirmed coronavirus cases and hospitalisations, as the U.S. emerged from a Fourth of July weekend of picnics, pool parties and beach outings that health officials fear could fuel the rapidly worsening outbreak.

The see-saw effect — restrictions lifted, then reversed after a resurgence of cases — has been seen around the U.S. in recent weeks and is expected again after a long holiday that saw party-goers and sunbathers gathering, many without masks, on one of the biggest weekends of the summer.

Confirmed cases are on the rise in 41 out of 50 states plus the District of Columbia, and the percentage of tests coming back positive for the virus is increasing in 39 states.

Florida, which recorded an all-time high of 11,400 cases Saturday and has seen its positive test rate over the past two weeks reach more than 18%, has been especially hard hit, along with other Sunbelt states such as Arizona, California and Texas.

In Florida’s Miami-Dade County, population 2.7 million, Mayor Carlos Gimenez issued an emergency order closing restaurants and certain other indoor places, including gyms and vacation rentals, seven weeks after they were allowed to reopen.

“We want to ensure that our hospitals continue to have the staffing necessary to save lives,” Gimenez said in a statement.

Hair salons and stores will remain open along with hotel pools and summer camps. Beaches will reopen in the county on Tuesday after they being closed over the weekend. “But if we see crowding and people not following the public health rules, I will be forced to close the beaches again,” the mayor warned.

Hospitalisations across the state have been ticking upward, with nearly 1,700 patients admitted in the past seven days compared with 1,200 the previous week. Five hospitals in the St. Petersburg area were out of intensive care unit beds, officials said. Miami-Dade said it has more than 1,600 coronavirus patients now in the hospital, more than double from two weeks ago.

“If we continue to increase at the pace we have been, we won’t have enough ventilators, enough rooms,” said Dr. David De La Zerda, a respiratory specialist at Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital.

The coronavirus is blamed for over a half-million deaths worldwide, including more than 130,000 in the U.S., according to the tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. The number of confirmed cases in the U.S. stood at about 2.9 million, though the real number of infections is believed to be 10 times higher.

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