UPDATE: On Saturday Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez issued an order saying that hotels and other commercial lodging could accept guests in essential jobs and in certain other circumstances — “essential lodgers” — but could not accept reservations for anyone other than essential lodgers. Those include healthcare professionals; first responders; National Guard members; law enforcement; state or federal government employees; airline crew members; patients and their families; journalists; others responding to COVID-19; displaced residents or visitors; people unable to return home because of COVID-19’s impacts on travel; people who must vacate their home due to circumstances such as fire or flood; people using hotels as transitional living arrangements; people escaping domestic violence; hotel employees, service providers and contractors; and people who, for any reason, are temporarily unable to stay in their homes.
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Miami Beach will order its hotels cleared after the weekend and impose a midnight curfew Monday, part of a countywide decree to close almost all lodging available to visitors in the latest unprecedented effort to slow the spread of coronavirus.
The city announced both measures, saying Mayor Carlos Gimenez planned a countywide order to shutter all hotels and motels, hostels and short-term rental offerings, including Airbnb.
Gimenez aides confirmed the order was coming and that it would mirror exemptions in the Beach rules for lodging tied to hospitals, homeless services, rooms needed for emergency responses, and other limited waivers.
With shops, restaurants, clubs, beaches and parks already closed under prior emergency orders from Gimenez, most vacationers have left the Miami area. A recent county estimate put hotel occupancy around 25 percent.
The beach closure comes with a curfew, making Miami Beach the latest city to restrict late-night movement during the pandemic. An emergency order signed by City Manager Jimmy Morales on Friday evening states that all “commercial lodging establishments” — including hotels, hostels, dormitories, motels and short-term rental units — must be “fully closed to guests and renters” by 11:59 p.m. on Monday. The county order would follow the same timeline.
A citywide curfew of midnight will take effect a minute later, at midnight Monday.
The hotel order exempts hotels or other lodging establishments that are approved to serve as shelters, provide healthcare services or house patients, patients’ families, healthcare workers, first responders, police, displaced residents and visitors or “essential personnel.”
Hotels will also be required to cancel “all existing reservations, and shall refrain from accepting new guests or making new reservations” through April 22, the order says.
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The closures do not apply to residents of residential apartment buildings or condominiums, which may include hotel units.
“Our hotels have always been the lifeblood of our economy, so shuttering them is not something to do impulsively. But right now, as painful as it may be, the reality is we just cannot be a tourist destination,” Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said in a statement. “Attracting visitors and tourists is just utterly incompatible with social distancing.
“For the many amazing operators and employees who are impacted, and the families that rely upon them, we are so sorry that you will feel this most acutely and we will advocate for whatever relief will be available at the state and federal level.”
He said the decisions were made collaboratively with Gimenez, Morales and city commissioners.
The curfew will be in effect daily from midnight to 5 a.m. and includes a prohibition on pedestrian and vehicular movement, standing, and parking. There will be exceptions for first responders and delivery drivers, although restaurant kitchens are already required to close at midnight.
The Beach had a limited curfew in effect for the busiest parts of South Beach, on Ocean Drive and Washington Avenue from 5th to 16th streets. That order, announced Sunday, will be replaced by the citywide mandate.
State health officials have reported 563 cases of COVID-19 and 11 deaths brought on by the disease in Florida as of Friday evening. Officials have reported 123 positive cases in Miami-Dade County.
The announcement marks the most significant steps Miami Beach and the county have taken to combat the spread of coronavirus, but Commissioner Mark Samuelian said more action — like a stay-at-home order — may be warranted to deal with such a “dynamic” situation.
“We regularly consider and review all options that are possibilities to help public safety,” Samuelian said. “I think the message is clear. We want people not to have interaction. We want people to be safe. And staying at home, unless you work for a critical business, is the best idea.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday ordered all non-essential businesses in Broward and Palm Beach counties to shut down through at least the end of the month.
Gimenez said in a statement that his decision to close hotels was made based on the “evolving recommendations of health experts.”
“I am ordering the closure of all hotels, commercial lodging establishments and short-term rentals in Miami-Dade County and fully support the decision by Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber and City Manager Jimmy Morales to close hotels and all other commercial lodging establishments on Miami Beach. We must not rule out any measures that will stem the spread of COVID-19 and protect our residents.”