Editorials

Ultra won’t be only casualty. Create S. Florida task force to help us gauge coronavirus risks | Editorial

Prudently deciding that there’s just not enough hand sanitizer in the world to protect the more than 150,000 concert-goers expected, the city of Miami and the Ultra Music Festival organizers have canceled this year’s edition. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez was proactive, realizing it was foolish, to say nothing of dangerous, to host an internationally famous event in the face of the threat of coronavirus.

The high-decibel, three-day electronic dance music extravaganza, scheduled for Bayfront Park from March 20-22, attracts fans from across the United States and around the world. Organizers expected 55,000 revelers a day — dancing, touching, exchanging droplets.

One person with the virus could quickly spread it to others, as recently happened aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan and, with deadly consequences, at a Washington state nursing home.

Imagine if the city then had to locate concertgoers to have them self-quarantine for 14 days? An impossible task it won’t have to address now.

Calle Ocho, too?

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Suarez, who was joined by his commission nemesis Joe Carollo in asking for the cancellation, said he had received countless emails and messages from residents asking the city to act now. He did the right thing, the only thing that would protect residents and concert attendees alike.

Next, Calle Ocho might be on the chopping block. Wednesday, Suarez told the Editorial Board that the largest Hispanic event in the United States, set for March 15, might not go on as planned. “We’re analyzing that,” the mayor said. “Ultra was unique because of the internationality of the event and the long and expensive set up time.”

Here’s the thing: There are tons of events coming up in Greater Miami; Spring Break is almost upon us; Urban Beach Weekend is at the end of May.

With the federal effort, led by Vice President Mike Pence, to manage the potential epidemic bogged down in denial, political spin and a disdain for science, local communities must to step up and fill the void, quickly. South Florida officials should take the initiative and create a multicounty task force consisting of elected leaders, healthcare officials and advocates, education leaders, scientists and real people to help guide the community though this potential pandemic. It’s that serious. South Floridians need to know that someone is in charge. What public events are ill-advised? What can go on as scheduled? Who’s creating guidelines for schools, nursing homes, restaurants, fitness centers?

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Right now, information is coming at South Floridians from too many directions, and piecemeal, some of it reliable, some not.

We already have officials taking the lead. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez complained last week when the CDC failed to deliver full testing kits to the county, causing a two-day delay in results versus a potential five-hour turnaround if the full kits had been available in the community. Gimenez identified a real problem. That prompted Gov. Ron DeSantis to step in.

On Wednesday, Pence announced that 1.5 million coronavirus test kits will go out to every state. He also said calculations show the elderly and those who have health issues, like recovering from cancer, are at real risk. Locally, the state and county should make sure that nursing homes are protecting patients from the virus. Hospitals need protocols, and residents need to know what they are.

Our communities have come together before in the face of disaster. We Will Rebuild comes to mind. Let’s do it again.

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