Coronavirus

Miami-Dade mayor on emergency alert: ‘a little bit overboard,’ won’t happen again

Miami-Dade’s mayor said the emergency alert to remain at home that residents received on their phones Friday afternoon was “a little bit overboard” and not intended to raise alarm.

“Please don’t panic,” Mayor Carlos Gimenez said in a video message hours after the text went out on the county’s emergency alert system. “That was not the intent of that alert.”

Gimenez said staff at the county’s Emergency Operations Center hadn’t gotten clearance from him to send out the message. “They may have gone a little bit overboard,” he said.

“During these difficult times our emergency center is working hard to keep everyone informed. ... I’ve given the EOC clear directions so this doesn’t happen again. Nevertheless, let me stress that you all should be staying home unless you have essential business to do.”

The message read: “All residents are urged to remain in their homes except for essential activities.” There was no indication of who was sending the message, or why the warning was being issued at that time.

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It came a day after Gimenez said he didn’t want to needlessly alarm people by using “shelter-in-place,” since the term typically is used for tornadoes, active shooters and other dangers requiring people to retreat inside immediately.

On Thursday, Gimenez issued an order under the heading “Safer at Home” that urged people to remain inside unless performing essential activities.

Around 2 p.m., residents all over Miami-Dade County, from Aventura to Homestead, received an alert that read “All residents are urged to remain in their homes except for essential activities.”

The order was also issued in Spanish.

Erika Benitez, spokeswoman for Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, said the Emergency Operations Center sent out the text as part of the county’s alert system. “These texts are for protective measures,” she said.

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On Thursday, Broward and Miami-Dade counties issued emergency shelter-in-place and safer at home orders urging all residents countywide to stay indoors except to conduct “essential” business.

Shelter-in-place orders have also been issued in Miami and other cities. They tell people to stay at home as much as possible but do say they can go outside to shop, work, participate in limited recreational activities and visit businesses that are allowed to stay open during the emergency.

The counties’ emergency orders “urge” rather than command residents to stay inside. Both orders have already gone into effect and those who work at “essential” businesses can leave their homes to go to work.

“Essential businesses” include grocery stores and farmers’ markets, gas stations and marine fueling stations, car dealerships, hardware stores, contractors, first responders, laundromats and restaurants.

Some Miami-Dade cities have also enacted curfews, which are stricter. The city of Miami enacted a 10 p.m. curfew. North Miami Beach has a 10 p.m. curfew. Sunny Isles Beach has an 11 p.m. curfew. Miami Beach’s government implemented a midnight curfew.

As of Friday morning, there were 2,900 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Florida. Miami-Dade has 763 positive cases, while Broward is at 614, the Florida Department of Health said.

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