The Slatest

Miami Beach Imposes Curfew Amid Huge Spring Break Crowds

People enjoy themselves along Ocean Drive on March 19, 2021 in Miami Beach, Florida.
People enjoy themselves along Ocean Drive on March 19, 2021 in Miami Beach, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The pandemic isn’t stopping the Spring Break partiers from packing Miami Beach and officials say the situation has gotten out of control. The city of Miami Beach declared a state of emergency on Saturday over the crowds and an 8 p.m. curfew has been imposed in the South Beach entertainment district. Officials will also be blocking most traffic headed to the shores after 9 p.m. The measures will be in place for at least 72 hours but officials made clear that could be extended.

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“As we hit the peak of the peak of spring break, we are quite simply overwhelmed,” City Manager Raul Aguila said. The goal, Aguila said, is that “we don’t want anybody on the streets after 8 p.m.” The restrictions were imposed after weeks in which rowdy crowds have faced off with law enforcement officers amid fears that the area could become a hotspot for COVID-19 infections. “This was not an easy decision to make,” Aguila said. “But you saw the photos from last night. It was quite simply overwhelming. It looked like a rock concert: You couldn’t see pavement and you couldn’t see grass.”

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Tourists staying in area hotels are being urged to stay inside after the curfew when restaurants, beaches, and public areas will be closed. “Our city in this area has become a tinder,” Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said. “And we can’t have a policy of simply hoping it’s not lit.”

Miami Beach police officers keep an eye on people along Ocean Drive on March 19, 2021 in Miami Beach, Florida.
Miami Beach police officers keep an eye on people along Ocean Drive on March 19, 2021 in Miami Beach, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images
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The emergency declaration came shortly after one of Miami Beach’s most iconic hotels, the Clevelander South Beach, said it would stop serving food and drinks amid concern about the coronavirus. “Recently, we have grown increasingly concerned with the safety of our dedicated employees and valued customers and the ability of the City to maintain a safe environment in the surrounding area,” the hotel said in a message on its website. “Therefore, we have made the difficult decision to temporarily close the food and beverage operations” until at least March 24.

Although COVID-19 cases have been declining across the country, some areas of South Florida are still seeing lots of infections and there’s increasing concern there could be a surge of cases as a new variant continues to spread in the country. Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Friday that the coronavirus variant that was first detected in the United Kingdom that is more easily transmissible accounts for as many as 30 percent of new COVID-19 infections in the United States.  “This variant, as you know, is everyday getting more and more dominant in our own country,” Fauci said.

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