By Peter D'Oench

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Miami was the first city in the county to mandate that masks be worn outside of the home. And its Police Chief Jorge Colina has some truly sobering words as he calls for everyone to help curb the deadly Coronavirus.

Colina told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench, “The city of Miami is at its most vulnerable point since the beginning of the COVID19 pandemic. On May 19th during the height of the shutdown, we had 10 new COVID cases in the city of Miami. On June 25th last week we logged a staggering 310 new cases in the city of Miami. That’s more cases in one day than we have seen in some weeks. As a community, we have a collective obligation to ensure that we are doing everything we can to reduce the spread of this deadly disease. That means we are going to do everything necessary to enforce the county’s new orders.”

“We will be closing businesses that are not complying with that order,” he said. “We will be issuing written warnings and subsequently issuing fines to people not wearing masks in public spaces. We want to do everything we can to make sure everyone is safe. This is a crisis.”

“Also if you choose to protest and you want to occupy a public right of way you will need a permit and you can get that at our special events office,” he said. “This is not an attempt to silence the public. We have a pubic health crisis.”

“Also 31 of our officers now have COVID and there was a point where we were down to zero,” he said. “Six civilians have the virus and 115 people are in quarantine. Many of those officers who got sick were on the protective teams with the protests. We are all in this together. We want you to do everything you can to make things safer.”

In Wynwood, Bruce Cannella, the co-owner of the BASE men’s multi-brand clothing store, said he had plenty of sanitizers and wipes and practiced social distancing and had already been inspected once before by Code compliance officers and he welcomed the stepped-up enforcement.

“I think it is important,” he said. “We are sticking to what is required during this pandemic and we have masks and signs on our doors about social distancing. We also have masks available for all of our customers if they do not have them.”

Customers also welcomed the stepped-up enforcement.

Saniah Scott of Coral Springs said “It’s good. Everyone should be wearing masks.”

Her friend Natoya Outar of Coral Springs said, “It’s more safe and better and hopefully in a month of two everything will be gone. We pray for that and that the numbers will go down.”

On Wednesday, Miami-Dade County took it a step further and mandated that that masks mandatory “in all public spaces indoors and outdoors.”

On Thursday, both the city and the county stressed the importance of adhering to COVID-19 guidelines as the number of new coronavirus cases continues to climb.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said enforcement of the new rules will be a priority over the July 4th holiday weekend.

“During this Fourth of July holiday weekend, police are going to be out checking on businesses to make sure that they are following the rules for social distancing and masks and capacity limits. Businesses that do not comply will be closed and their owners may face up to a $500 fine and 180 days in jail. So please everyone take this seriously. It’s life or death and everyone must do their part, we must all do their part,” he said.

The county has been sending SURGE teams to areas where there are high numbers of COVID-19 cases in a campaign to educate residents while handing out hand sanitizer, latex gloves, and face masks. The county’s campaign to target so-called coronavirus hot spots in Allapattah, Brownsville, Liberty City, Cutler Bay, and south Miami-Dade near Homestead will continue indefinitely.

Gimenez said “You have to assume that everyone has the virus so that is why we are wearing masks. It is a symbol of respect, the respect I have for you and you for me.”

While Gimenez was with a SURGE team in Liberty City, Miami Commissioner Ken Russell stopped at the Green Street Cafe in Coconut Grove to hand out face masks.

“One of the most that are most susceptible are restaurants and we need to help them comply,” he said. “The rules are in place to really set the guidelines. It’s very difficult to enforce on customers so we are also now talking to restaurants and saying if you don’t comply with these rules and make sure your customers comply with the rules, your restaurant can be closed down on a first offense for up to 10 days. So really it’s about helping them comply rather than just being heavy,” said Russell.

He also had a message to the public.

“Wearing masks is so important for you, your family, your safety, but even our business community. They’re really counting on you to wear your mask so they can stay open and continue to stay open so we don’t go backward with our economy. So please, wear your mask,” he said.

Russell said one of the biggest enemies is complacency, many people things are back to normal when they are not.

Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina said the goal is not to fine people or shut down businesses, but to get everyone to do their part.

On Thursday, the state reported Miami-Dade had a single-day increase of 2,304 coronavirus cases, bringing the county’s total to 40,265 cases.

Peter D'Oench

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