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Nail salons, golf courses, offices, trampoline parks, casinos and social clubs were among the countless gathering spots ordered to close by 9 p.m. Thursday by Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez in a mass shutdown except for “essential” services during the coronavirus crisis.
The order signed at 8:30 a.m. Thursday and released later in the morning with a video address contains a string of business categories allowed to remain open. They include construction sites, engineering firms, pet-supply stores, pool and landscaping services, and childcare if administered to groups of 10 or fewer.
The order also included exemptions for grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, and other businesses considered vital to daily life. That includes all government buildings, coin laundries, healthcare providers, taxi operations, and carryout and delivery services from restaurants.
Late Thursday, the county issued a list of modifications for the order that included other businesses deemed essential: auto dealerships, marine services and boat supplies; hotels, motels and short-term vacation rentals (previous rules on restaurants and fitness centers still apply); residence halls for private schools; veterinarians and pet-boarding facilities.
“I know it must be frustrating to have more closures every day,” Gimenez said in the video in his Miami home, where he’s self-isolating over possible COVID-19 exposure from last week. “But it is necessary.”
It’s the latest decree by Gimenez under emergency powers. They started modestly Monday, when he ordered restaurants to reduce capacity and close early Monday, starting a week that included robust St. Patrick’s Day celebrations and a bustling Spring Break scene on South Beach.
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Gimenez’s order switched to restaurants ordered to close Tuesday, followed by caps on crowds at county parks Wednesday. On Thursday, it escalated again, with Gimenez ordering all parks across Miami-Dade to close to all visitors, starting at 9 a.m. He imposed the same closing time on beaches and golf courses.
On the casino front, Gimenez noted his authority does not extend to the Miccosukee casino, which sits on tribal lands within county lines. The mayor said he has “reached out” to the casino and urged elderly people to stay away if it continues to stay open. “I am asking our senior citizens to take personal responsibility and stay away from large gatherings, whether it’s at a casino or any other activity,” he said.
The order states that “all non-essential retail and commercial establishments” must close, then spends several pages laying out exceptions. They include specific categories:
▪ Contractors and open construction sites
▪ Sellers of groceries and supplies, including hardware, office products and household cleaning supplies and consumer goods
▪ Farming and fishing; auto repair shops
▪ Media outlets
▪ Delivery services and shipping companies
▪ Airlines and other transportation providers
▪ Pool-care businesses, warehouses and truckers
▪ Phone and computer sellers
▪ Architects and surveyors
▪ Waste haulers.
There also were broad exceptions, such as law and accounting firms assisting with “legally mandated activities” and businesses that provide “necessities of life” to the needy and businesses that supply other businesses with “vital” support.
“It’s a pretty significant exemption list,” said Mark Trowbridge, president of the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce. “I imagine some will try to hammer themselves into one of those until someone, probably the city, tells them to stop.”
The county added marinas and boat ramps as stated exemptions later in the day, and an administration source said more language was coming to waive the rules for places like Florida Memorial University with students who need places to live.
One carve out that never arrived was for liquor stores, a category with no exception in the language. Keith Donner, a political consultant and lobbyist active in local government, said he’s been fielding calls from liquor sellers hoping to decipher a loophole in the order.
“I”m voting they stay open,” Donner said, “for the health and well-being and sanity of the residents.”