According to NPR, officials in Miami Beach, Florida are trying to prevent spring break partiers from becoming COVID-19 superspreaders by imposing new curfews to discourage large crowds from gathering — but its efforts appear to be futile. Young people reportedly crowded the streets and beaches over the weekend in defiance of the emergency order.
Officials announced the 8 p.m. general curfew and 7 p.m. shutdown of outdoor dining just hours before it took effect, which meant that presumably, a number of those who broke the curfew might not have been aware of the rules.
Still, those gathered in the streets persisted in their defiance by moving to the next block until police ultimately deployed pepper balls to disperse them, the Daily Beast reported. By midnight, the streets were largely deserted.
Given recent headlines about the state of Florida and its approach to the pandemic, it’s not a stretch to argue that some of the general public sees the state as having lax COVID-19 restrictions, but some local areas like Miami Beach still have mask mandates and other rules designed to curb the pandemic, which could catch some vacation-goers off guard.
Cheap Florida travel at fault?
Reduced-rate flights and hotels seemingly proved to be far too tempting for the spring break crowd, and they flocked to tourist beach areas of Florida — including Miami Beach — in droves to celebrate the coming of spring.
“Too many people are coming here right now,” Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said on Saturday as he announced a state of emergency, according to NPR. “And too many people are coming here with bad intentions.”
Police arrested roughly a dozen people for refusing to obey the curfew on Saturday night, but that was merely a fraction of the hundreds they arrested last weekend during the peak of spring break season.
Last week, crowds brawled and used chairs from outdoor seating to cause chaos and destruction during the evening and nighttime hours. The smell of marijuana was heavy in the air in some areas, the Daily Beast reported.
CDC, Miami Beach residents concerned
While new case rates and death rates of COVID-19 have plummeted since January — both nationwide and in Florida — the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) remains concerned that increased travel and largely-maskless gatherings will lead to a resurging spike in new cases over the summer.
Residents of Miami Beach are afraid that the young party-goers will spread the virus and potentially place them in harm’s way as they simply attempt to go about their daily routine as residents living in the area.
However, many of those at the highest risk of picking up the virus have now been vaccinated as the U.S. recently passed the 100 million dose threshold, which means that the risk of them contracting a severe bout of COVID-19 is significantly lower than it was only a few months ago.
Undoubtedly, the fact that most students missed spring break last year due to the shutdown of college campuses, closed beaches, and the fact that most states had stay-at-home orders certainly plays into the frenzy of resurging activity this year.