By Peter D'Oench

SWEETWATER (CBSMIAMI) —- It’s become a nationwide problem amid concerns about the spread of the coronavirus: more and more people dumping their protective gloves in public after using them while visiting stores and supermarkets.

CBS4 has seen the problem all over Miami-Dade and Broward: Shopping centers and parking lots littered with the blue or white latex or other protective gloves. It is much more than an eyesore. It is a public health hazard and safety issue as authorities say some of those gloves could be infected with COVID-19.

Experts say those gloves are supposed to be disposed of properly after being used and should never be left out in public.

One person from Plantation went on Facebook to show the dumping of such gloves and said “We must do better.”

Now Sweetwater is taking action.

CBS4’s Peter D’Oench caught up with Sweetwater Mayor Orlando Lopez and his Code Compliance Supervisor Jorge Vega as they responded to complaints about West Flagler Plaza. Vega also took photographs and planned to enlist the help of property and business owners to curb this problem.

Lopez said “You have got a lot of people protecting themselves when doing essential shopping at shopping centers and buying food at local restaurants but the problem is when they come out and when they dump the gloves in the parking lot. So we are taking a pro-active stance in this shopping center at West Flagler Plaza.”

“They have really got to do something about all of these latex gloves being all over the ground because now the persons who want to protect themselves could be potentially infecting somebody else so we really need to stop this or even impose fines if it gets much worse,” he said.

“It’s really bad,” said Lopez. “Potentially you can start infecting someone else so we’ve got to get the shopping centers and the business owners to do something to protect everyone. Either they have to go to put employees outside to warn everyone or we have to educate them. Otherwise, this may lead to fins and this may be the only way to get people to stop this is to fine them and not have this mess here.

It’s a $100 fine in Sweetwater for littering by dumping disposable gloves in public.

“I think it’s caught everyone off guard,” said Lopez. “People are not used to going shopping like this with gloves on. But you have to be socially conscious and realize you may be infecting someone else. We hope to get that message out. By littering and leaving these gloves on the ground you are literally spreading the virus right now. Everyone has got to be socially conscious and pick up after themselves.”

“Right now this is a fine,” said Lopez. “We could bring this issue up before the City Commission. But that would take time and at least a couple of public hearings.”

Vega said, “We will be visiting business owners and advising them on what’s going on and taking pictures and bringing them outside so they can all see the gloves on their properties.”

Shopper Uber Cardendey said “I think this is terrible people leaving gloves out like this. People don’t realize the risk this is to everyone. They don’t realize what they are doing.”

Cardendey showed us what he does with his disposable gloves after shopping.

“Look at this,” he said. “I take the gloves like this and put them in this plastic bag and then I throw everything away.”

In the past week, Philadelphia and other cities in the northeast have issued warnings about this problem.

Police in East Brunswick, New Jersey last Wednesday said they would be actively patrolling and issuing summonses to anyone found discarding gloves and other protective gear on the ground and that includes latex gloves, false masks, and tissues. Patch.Com reported that fines for littering range from $50 to $2,000.

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Peter D'Oench