The City of Miami Beach was forced to declare a state of emergency after droves of tourists descended on the location for Spring Break.
Mayor Dan Gelber announced on Saturday that an 8 p.m. curfew is now in effect for the South Beach entertainment district. Also, traffic heading to the shore will be filtered. These measures are expected to last at least 72 hours while an extended state of emergency is being discussed by city officials.
“As we hit the peak of the peak of spring break, we are quite simply overwhelmed,” City Manager Raul Aguila explained to Yahoo. Aguila went on to describe a scene of mass overcrowding that can only heighten the chances of contracting COVID-19. “You couldn’t see pavement and you couldn’t see grass.”
In an effort to enforce the curfew, Miami Beach Police called for the assistance of SWAT teams Saturday night. These officers fired pepper balls into the crowd, causing a stampede as the masses tried to immediately disperse. It's unclear if anyone sustained injuries from the SWAT teams’ involvement, but the extreme measures eventually led to fully cleared streets an hour after curfew was in place.
Gelber blamed the overcrowding on airlines creating cheap flight deals to Miami and accessible travel.
“There are a lot of cheap flights,” he told the media. “Last month you could get here from Philadelphia, New York, or Chicago for $50 round trip.” Yet, despite imposing a curfew, large crowds still seem to be gathering on South Beach past 8 p.m. as the video above shows.
Not only is this a hotbed for coronavirus transmission, it is also the crowds of people have also caused chaos and violence. Police were forced to use pepper balls on Thursday to break up a brawl at the Clevelander South Beach hotel and restaurant. This prompted the establishment to shut down its restaurant services due to overcrowding and the coinciding violence.
“Recently, we have grown increasingly concerned with the safety of our dedicated employees and valued customers and the ability of the City to maintain a safe environment in the surrounding area,” the hotel said in a statement per South Florida’s NBC affiliate. Police also responded to several fights on Friday leading up to Gelber’s state of emergency during which chairs were used as weapons.