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Masks in Miami-Dade After Wiping Away Of Local COVID Rules, And Tackling Gun Violence

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava is shown wearing a face mask before a news conference, Monday, April 5, 2021, in Miami.
Wilfredo Lee
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava is shown before a news conference, Monday, April 5, 2021, in Miami. On May 3, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order canceling all local COVID-19 restrictions. However, Miami-Dade County continues to have mask rules at county government facilities. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Gov. Ron DeSantis may have canceled local COVID rules, but you still have to wear a mask in some places. And addressing the increase in gun violence, and warnings of a "bloody summer," in South Florida.

Local mask mandates are no more after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order Monday canceling local pandemic restrictions and emergency orders.

Except masks are still required in some places such as like airports, public transportation and inside county government buildings in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. And businesses can still require customers to wear masks and remain socially distanced.

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The South Florida Roundup spoke with Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava about the changes. Also on this program, we spoke about the increase in gun violence in the county and efforts to address it.

Mayor Continues Mask Requirements

Mayor Levine Cava said the governor's executive order does not restrict what the county requires on its property, such as government buildings and libraries.

"And so we are going to continue to do those," she said. "That includes requiring masks and socially distance rules. We're doing those things that are critical to make sure that our public is safe."

While 70% of people 65 years old and older have been vaccinated in Miami-Dade County, according to The New York Times vaccine tracker, only 40% of all adults in the county have received full doses.

"We know from the medical advisers that masking, disinfecting and distancing are the key things that keep us safe," the mayor said. "These are precautions that we can take as common courtesy to our friends and neighbors, even if we've been vaccinated ourselves. We can stem the tide of others getting sick or new variants coming into our community."

The daily positivity rate in Miami-Dade County has stayed below 7% for at least the past two weeks. The number of COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals has been trending lower. Meanwhile, the number of people getting a vaccine dose each daily also has been trending lower.

"We have been going in the right direction. Positivity is down, hospitalization is down, but we're not there yet," Levine Cava said.

'Bloody' Summer Warning

This week, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Kionne McGhee issued a warning about violence in neighborhoods in the months ahead.

"Our intel has shown us that there will be a bloody summer as it relates to the retaliations that’s about to happen," he said during a recent county commission meeting. McGhee represents parts of south Miami-Dade County.

"I don't remember a summer that wasn't bloody," said Circle of Brotherhood Miami Executive Director Lyle Muhammad. "So whether the comments were made yesterday or last year or 10 years [ago], until we allow those individuals who have a comprehensive understanding of what needs to be done, to be properly resourced to do it, these stories will continue next summer and the next summer and the summer to follow."

In March, Miami-Dade police warned about a significant increase in gun violence in the northern part of the county after almost three dozen shootings in the first two months of the year.

In April, three-year-old Elijah LeFrance became the third young child in nine months killed by gunfire in north Miami-Dade County. He was shot and killed at his birthday party. Electronic monitoring picked up the sounds of gunshots in the neighborhood. Police think someone else was the target.

Miami-Dade Police Director Alfredo "Freddy" Ramirez pointed to the pandemic, social media beefs and economic conditions as contributing factors to the violence.

"There's a lot of kids who aren't going to school. They have challenged homes right now. There's no money. And they're living off of social media, bullying and getting pulled into a retaliatory situation," he said.

In February, the county police department's northside district said it would increase police presence in “hot spots.” That's something that continues there and in the department's intracoastal district and south district.

"That presence is not just a patrol car sitting there. It is engagement. It's getting information and being present so that the community feels safe," said Ramirez.

"In the neighborhoods where we've been working successfully, when there is a police presence, they're not just seeing police officers when it's a crime or something that's going wrong. They see us doing things together, working together, recreational activity with young people together, as proper community policing relations," said Muhammad.

There were 272 homicides in 2020 in Miami-Dade County — a 13% increase from a year earlier, and a 45% jump from 2016. Almost one in four victims, last year, was younger than 21 years old.

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Tom Hudson is WLRN's Senior Economics Editor and Special Correspondent.