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The South Florida Roundup

The Latest On COVID In South Florida, The Workforce In The Wake Of The Pandemic, And The Commercialization Of Art In Wynwood

Streets of Wynwood

This Memorial Day weekend is expected to be the busiest weekend for travel in South Florida since the pandemic began more than 14 months ago.

Hundreds of thousands of travelers will be moving through the airports. Many others will be driving. People will be crowded on the water and on the sand for the first major holiday since the Centers for Disease Control revised its mask recommendations.

The latest guidance from the CDC says people who are fully vaccinated can resume activities without wearing masks or physically distancing except in places where they're required.

Dr. Joshua Lenchus, chief medical examiner of Broward Health Medical Center, said adolescents 12 to 15 — recently added to the pool of eligibility for the Pfizer COVD-19 vaccine — should continue to wear masks and practice social distancing.

Lenchus said people shouldn’t let their guards down just yet.

“We still continue to see both at a state and local level, that the greatest instances of COVID cases are occurring presently in the 25- to 34-year-old age group,” Lenchus said.

Lenchus said it will take a few weeks to know if the uptick in travel plans for Memorial Day weekend travel plans will translate into a spike in coronavirus cases.

“I would not expect [an uptick in COVID cases] would be to the same degree or depth that we've seen after previous holidays when vaccination rates were much lower,” Lenchus said.

Roughly one out of every two people 18 or older in South Florida is fully vaccinated.

Tackling Unemployment As Florida’s Economy Recovers From The Pandemic

After more than a year of economic turmoil brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, businesses are bouncing back. But “help wanted” and “now hiring” signs are abundant throughout South Florida and the entire state.

Floridians collecting unemployment will see their weekly payments cut by more than 50 percent in a month. Beginning June 26, Florida will no longer pass along an extra $300 a week in federal unemployment money. It means the maximum amount someone on unemployment can receive will be $275 a week.

Some companies have raised concerns over not being able to find enough workers. The local labor force has shrunk by more than 100,000 people since the beginning of the pandemic. But it’s not just unemployment payments that may be keeping workers from returning. There are child-care concerns, health worries and wages.

Nika Zyryanova is a researcher with Florida International University’s Jorge M. Perez Metropolitan Center.

Zyryanova said high rents and low paying jobs in metropolitan areas of South Florida has caused many people to move to more affordable places in the state over the course of the pandemic.

“If you make $13 an hour, you cannot afford to live in South Florida,” Zyryanova said. “Even if you look at the job postings that are currently being put out by major employers, offering $21 an hour, it still translates to $41,000, $42,000 a year. You will be spending more than 50% of your income just on housing.”

When Street Art And Advertising Collide

The buildings and sidewalks of Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood have served as a canvas for local and international artists for decades. Millions of people visit every year to experience the area’s intersection of art and grit.

Advertisers have been trying to capitalize on the foot traffic in the area, leading to a rise in commercial murals.

The Wynwood Business Improvement District, or BID, is fighting what it describes as the “commercialization” of the arts district.

Some local artists say the advertisement murals are a good source of income.

Miami New Times reporter Alexi Cardona reported on the BID’s concerns over the commercial murals. The organization said many of the advertisements go up without properly being permitted and often violate zoning regulations.

“There's quite a host of rules and a lengthy process to go through for somebody to create a permitted mural,” Cardona said. “If artists and businesses don't comply with all the terms, they risk having their permit revoked and being disqualified from ever applying for future permits.”

Yuval Ofir is the creative project director, consultant, cultural advocate, and founder of arts incubator Yo Miami. He has worked with local artists in Wynwood and neighboring areas for more than a decade.

“Commercial and let's say noncommercial work, have to live side by side, and especially in an environment like Miami or South Florida, where there is very little financial support for the artists creating this work,” Ofir said.

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Andrea Perdomo is a producer for WLRN News.