Masks will again be required at indoor county facilities in Florida’s populous Miami-Dade following new federal guidelines recommending that even people vaccinated against COVID-19 should wear facial coverings indoors.
Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said the decision is a response to the surge in new cases and hospitalizations. The mayor didn’t announce any mandates for businesses or restaurants but said she was strongly recommending that everyone wear masks in large crowds or close spaces.
“We have all come too far. We have all sacrificed too much in this past almost year and a half. We cannot turn back now,” Levine Cava said. “It is essential that we do everything we can to keep building on the progress that we have made.”
A state law signed in May gives Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis the power to invalidate local emergency measures put in place during the pandemic, including mask mandates and limitations on business operations. The governor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the new county order.
The delta variant of the coronavirus is causing infection surges across the U.S., with Florida accounting for a fifth of the nation’s new cases last week, more than any other state, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hospitals have seen admissions soar with the vast majority of the patients unvaccinated.
On Tuesday, the CDC changed course on some masking guidelines and recommended that even vaccinated people should wear masks indoors in areas of high transmission. Officials cited new information revealing the variant’s ability to spread among vaccinated people.
All 67 of Florida’s counties are considered areas of high transmission, meaning they have had more than 100 new cases per 100,000 people in the past seven days.
DeSantis has remained staunchly opposed to restrictions, mask mandates, and vaccine passports, a stance that is central to his reelection campaign.
A law signed by DeSantis in May codified earlier executive orders to preempt local governments from enforcing mask mandates. That new legislation also bans government entities and businesses from requiring proof of vaccination.
Democratic Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who is running to challenge DeSantis in 2022, suggested that local governments get creative about measures and vaccine campaigns.
“Local governments are handcuffed right now about what they can do,” Fried said at a news conference Wednesday prior to Levine Cava’s announcement. “We are stuck in a situation that all we can be doing is giving information out there, encouraging people to do what’s right for their communities.”
Earlier this week, DeSantis hinted at a bill to oppose mask mandates in schools, a decision that is still up to school districts. The CDC on Tuesday also recommended indoor masks for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors at schools nationwide, regardless of vaccination status. DeSantis predicted lawmakers would hold a special session to address the issue, saying “our Legislature feels strongly about it.”
School board members in Broward County held a special meeting Wednesday to discuss mask-wearing, a day after roughly two dozen mask opponents disrupted the meeting in screaming matches and burned masks outside the building.
Vivian Hug, a Navy veteran, brought her twins with her as she addressed board members, saying she was tired of the “fear-mongering” and giving up “freedoms in the name of safety.”
“Please stop the insanity. You have already done damage to these kids having to wear masks,” she said before putting her daughter up to the microphone. The young girl then complained that she can’t breathe when she wears a mask and gets headaches from wearing them.
To date, Florida has confirmed nearly 2.5 million coronavirus cases. More than 38,000 people have died.
Miami-Dade mayor defies state, mandates masks to curb spread