By Ted Scouten

FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – New Year’s Eve is getting off to a busy start on Fort Lauderdale Beach.

It’s the same story on South Beach, there are lots of people out.

The prospect of packed streets has city and county leaders worried, afraid it will get more packed throughout the evening.

“Everybody is congregating close together, they’re not wearing masks and the more they have a couple of drinks in them, the less careful they’re being about wearing masks or social distancing,” worries Broward Mayor Steve Geller.

Visitor Chris Minnucci is hanging out at the famous Elbo Room tells us mask-wearing should be a choice. “I think as long as you have your freedom and you have a choice to wear a mask or be out in public or not, leave it up to us to make the choice,” he said.

With Miami’s Big Orange celebration at Bayfront Park canceled and Fort Lauderdale’s “anchor drop” going virtual, much of the action will happen in bars and restaurants.

Broward Mayor Steve Geller says code officers will be watching closely. “(They) are going to have a heavy dose of code enforcement officers out,” Mayor Geller said.

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Officials are also worried about house parties. “We’re just going to a small little house gathering,” said South Beach visitor Sophia Bilotta. “There’s like 10 people,” she said.

Ten is the limit for house parties in Broward.

Some officials calling them one of the biggest super spreaders around. They’ll be on the lookout for them, crowded bars and for violations of the 1 am curfew.

“Bars and restaurants that are packing people in, ignoring the 6-foot separation in the code will be cited,” Mayor Geller said. “If you have people at house parties, driving in and out at 3 in the morning, they will be cited,” he continued.

Wildlife officials are fanning out all over South Florida waterways.

They’re checking for onboard safety as well as those operating a boat after having too much to drink. “Stay sober,” warned FWC Officer Ronald Washington, “so that whoever is operating the boat can get all their passengers back to the dock safely,” he said.

Ted Scouten