Miami-Dade Mayor Says Protests 'Had a Lot to Do With' COVID-19 Surge in Florida

Miami-Dade Mayor Says Protests 'Had a Lot to Do With' COVID-19 Surge in Florida
Demonstrators participate in a protest in Miami, Florida, on June 12, 2020. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Bill Pan

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez on Sunday cited the recent protests as one of the reasons his county continues to report new highs for COVID-19 cases.

During an interview on CBS' "Face the Nation," Gimenez said that the county residents "let their guard down" in late May and early June, a period marked by the effort to reopen Florida's economy, as well as the civil unrest following George Floyd's death in the custody of Minneapolis police.

"Some of the protests that we had here, I think, contributed to it, so we saw a rapid rise in young people being positive for COVID-19 around mid-June," he said. "I think that had a lot to do with probably socializing, young people going to parties, maybe graduation parties at home."

Thousands of protesters have marched in cities and towns across the Miami-Dade County throughout June. On June 6, some 1,000 protesters gathered and marched through the main campus of Florida International University, Miami. Many of the protestors were students there.

When asked whether is was the reopening of businesses rather than the protests that caused an uptick in COVID-19 cases, the Republican mayor said they are both factors leading to the current situation.

"I think it's all the above. I think obviously the protests had a lot to do with it," Gimenez said. "We had, you know, thousands of young people together outside, a lot of them not wearing masks. And we know when you do that, and you are talking, and you are chanting, etc., that really spreads the virus."

"So absolutely, the protests had something to do with it," Gimenez continued. "But also our people, our residents, did not—I think they let their guard down and started to socialize. And again, that also has to do with it. So it's all the above. I'm not saying it's just that, but it was a contributing factor."

Gimenez's comments comes as Florida on Saturday reported 11,458 new COVID-19 cases, setting new record for single-day cases. In Miami-Dade, the number of confirmed cases has more than doubled in the past month. An interactive map by Florida's Health Department suggests that at the beginning of June, the county had around 18,000 confirmed cases. By Independence day weekend, the county's number of cases had grown to about 46,000.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said last week he's not planning to shut down the state's economy again.

"We're not shutting down. We're going to go forward we're going to continue to protect the most vulnerable, we're going to urge, continue to advise, particularly our elderly population, to maintain social distancing and avoid crowds," DeSantis said.