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Not wearing a mask can cost you $50 in South Beach under new COVID crackdown

Miami Herald logo Miami Herald 3 days ago By Martin Vassolo, The Miami Herald

Not wearing a mask in South Beach may cost you $50 beginning on Tuesday.

Amid a rising number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Miami-Dade County, the mayor of Miami Beach announced Monday the city would begin issuing fines to those who ignore rules requiring the use of facial coverings indoors and outside if social distance cannot be observed.

The city’s new crackdown does not go as far as its neighbors across the bay in the city of Miami, which requires the use of masks at all times in public except for when exercising, eating or working outdoors or by very young or medically vulnerable groups.

You can still walk your dog along the street, for example, but you’ll need your mask on if you chat with a neighbor along the way.

Violating Miami Beach’s rule may earn you a verbal warning, and subsequent violations will lead to a $50 fine. That’s less than the announced fines in Miami, which start at $50 but can increase to $500 for a third offense.

The order remains in effect through Wednesday unless the City Commission votes to extend the manager’s emergency powers beyond July 1.

Mayor Dan Gelber said noncompliance with current mask rules, coupled with a troubling increase in the spread of the coronavirus, made further restrictions necessary.

“We don’t have too many tools left in our tool kit, and we don’t want to be forced to return to a shelter-in-place order that proved so economically devastating,” he said in a statement.

The city’s COVID-19 advisory panel, comprised of health experts in Florida and beyond, agreed that pushing for more mask use was one way the city could contain the spread of the virus outside of another lockdown.

Dr. Aileen Marty, an infectious diseases expert at Florida International University, said imposing fines would “get a lot of people’s attention” and make enforcement easier.

“Considering the current state of the pandemic in our community, our population, and enforcement issues, I favor requiring the proper use of facial coverings outdoors and indoors in all public places at all times, with the usual, reasonable exemptions,” Marty wrote in an email to City Manager Jimmy Morales on Saturday

Dr. Kenneth Ratzan, the chief of infectious diseases at Mount Sinai Medical Center, said in another email that “if the current surge isn’t halted we can expect our hospitals to be stressed, and deaths will increase.”

“I’m a firm believer that masks, social distancing and hand hygiene are the keys in preventing spread of infection, especially since asymptomatic persons play such an important role in the spread of infection,” he said. “I believe easing of restrictions would have worked if these practices had been universally followed.”

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