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Mayors In Hard-Hit South Florida Critique State's Handling Of COVID-19, With Thank-You's Peppered In

Dan Gelber
Lynne Sladky/AP
Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber listens during a roundtable discussion with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Miami-Dade County mayors during the coronavirus pandemic, Tuesday, July 14, 2020, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Governor Ron DeSantis held a roundtable discussion in Miami Tuesday, attended by mayors from across the hardest-hit area in Florida.

Most of the local leaders offered critiques of the state’s response to COVID-19. Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber told the governor a statewide mask mandate needs to come from DeSantis to ensure compliance.

They’ll say, ‘You know what? I don’t think I need to wear a mask, because so-and-so says I don’t have to.’ Or, ‘I don’t need to do this, because I’ve seen that one of my leaders is saying I don’t have to,’” Gelber said of Floridians who might not otherwise follow local orders. “So, I don’t think it’s just about urging. My wife urges me to exercise more and watch what I eat, and she’s failing in both of those regards. I think we need a sense of urgency in our community right now, a true sense of urgency, and I think it needs to come from the president, from the governor.”

During the roughly two-hour roundtable discussion, several of the local officials addressed the idea of reopening brick and mortar schools for the fall, expressing hesitancy as COVID-19 cases rise.

Juan Carlos Bermudez, mayor of Doral, told the governor he’s heard from parents who aren’t keen on the idea of sending their children back.

“I would tell you, going to your question governor, that there is great concern from some of the parents, that if their children were to go to school … whether the science says it or not, there are people that are afraid to send their children to school, and probably prefer a hybrid option at the very least,” Bermudez said.

The superintendent of schools for Broward County, one of the state’s most populated, has said he doesn’t plan on opening brick and mortar campuses in the area’s current condition.

Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran recently ordered schools reopen five days a week, and offer all their usual services. The order does allow for parents to continue distance learning for their child.

While they offered critiques of DeSantis and state agencies’ handling of COVID-19 in Florida, most of the mayors thanks the governor for state aid in some form. Though, some petitioned DeSantis for more help on some fronts.

Gabriel Groisman, mayor of Bal Harbour, says some reinforcement is needed to keep travelers from coming into the state.

“From the state level, you put in place a very important travel ban that I think was key for us. But we could use more help on enforcement of the travel ban, or at least on sharing of information that the state may or may not be able to help get us, of people still coming down here – especially in these summer months.”