By Ted Scouten

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Leaders across South Florida are urging residents and visitors alike to play it safe over the long Labor Day weekend.

That means wearing a mask when out in public, continue social distancing, and avoiding large gatherings.

Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony said they are stepping up enforcement on those who had too much to drink and decide to get behind the wheel.

“This is your first and only warning when it comes to this operation,” he said on Friday. “We will enforce all laws of the state when it comes to DUI initiatives including up to arrest.”

Big holiday weekend in Broward County:

Tony said this is one of the worst holiday weekends for drinking and driving.

“From 2014 to 2018, 44 percent of traffic deaths involve drivers who have been drunk or intoxicated. That’s roughly 945 that lost their lives,” he said.

The sheriff’s office is partnering with the Florida Highway Patrol for enforcement on the roads and checkpoints.

“We will be enforcing all DUI stops. You will go to jail if you get stopped drinking and driving,” FHP Lt. Yank Reyes.

Sheriff Tony said his deputies will also be enforcing the county’s COVID-19 restrictions. A big concern, he said, is house parties.

“There’s not going to be large gatherings on the beach. There’s not going to be big events going on at bars and clubs because of the virus. So we’re going to see more parties at residences,” he said.

Like Miami-Dade, Broward’s beaches will remain open and proper social distancing is encouraged. As for restaurants, code enforcement and the sheriff’s office will be issuing citations and shutdowns if they find violations.

“I encourage our businesses, hang in there. We know it’s tough. Losing money, losing revenue streams, but don’t allow us to come in and dictate and control shutting your business down. Be that self-enforcement,” said Tony.

South Florida restaurants are especially looking forward to this weekend.

“Financially it’s a massive weekend. With the extra day on Monday being open and Sunday being bigger. It’s a huge opportunity for all businesses in this area,” said Branam Cohn of El Camino on Las Olas.

The restaurant has had zero violations of the COVID regulations and plans to keep it that way. Broward County Mayor Dale Holness warns if businesses violate the rules, they’ll pay for it.

“This weekend we’ll be having about 60 code enforcers out working with our cities,” said Broward Mayor Dale Holness. “We want to do areas where there’s large foot traffic. We want to look at our beach areas and tourist attractions, hotel lobbies, common areas, food establishments or restaurants.”

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said they will have zero tolerance for those who don’t follow the new normal rules.

“I mean Dade County is hovering around 7 percent for COVID-19 positivity rate, which is really good news. And our hospitals are no longer overwhelmed. This is not over yet. We have a big test coming for this Labor Day weekend. You don’t want to repeat a repeat of Memorial Day when people got complacent. There were parties big gatherings and people weren’t following the rules are very massive social distancing, so infection spot hospitals were packed,” he said.

Since then, Gimenez said they’ve been able to reopen restaurants and other businesses with limited capacity due to stepped-up enforcement of the new normal rules

“Wear a facial covering and in public places keep your distance. Be sure to be home by 10 o’clock because the countywide curfew is still in effect. Only essential workers can be out after 10,” he said.

Those caught breaking the rules will be fined.

“We have fines countywide if you fail to follow the new normal rules, They are $100 for individuals, $500 for businesses. Businesses that don’t follow the rules can be shut down. So mask up or pay up fort violations,” he said.

Above all, the mayor said, do not have house parties.

“This weekend, Miami-Dade County has a multi-phase plan to crack down on those who violate the rules. We will have more police officers and more code enforcement personnel out on the street and on the waterways. We’ll be partnering with our cities to make sure that there are no crowds and parties,” he said.

The Coast Guard will be working with our police to monitor our hot waterways. Remember, there’s no rafting of boats, no crowding in boats, and no gatherings at bay islands,” Gimenez added.

Gimenez said the rules are in place to protect our workers so that they remain healthy.

“And this will allow us to keep opening our economy so people can continue getting back to work, and our businesses can prosper together. I mean, together, we can do this.”

Ted Scouten

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