‘Some people are not taking this seriously.’

Mayor orders condo pools and gyms closed.

Article and Video Courtesy of Channel 9 WFTV

By Linda Robertson and Aaron Leibowitz

Published April 3, 2020



Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, visibly displeased by a lack of compliance with his emergency orders to slow the spread of the coronavirus, announced Monday that all private swimming pools and gyms must close.

Gimenez targeted condominiums and apartment buildings where pools, gyms and other recreational or communal areas have remained open as residents blithely ignore social distancing rules implemented to protect them and their neighbors from the highly contagious COVID-19 disease.

“Unfortunately, some people are not taking this seriously, and they are not practicing social distancing,” Gimenez said in a video issued for public viewing.

Even before Gimenez’s order Monday, some local governments had been trying to force condos and other multi-family buildings to shut down their common spaces.

In Key Biscayne, Mayor Mike Davey said Sunday that he believed such areas should have already been closed under a March 19 order from Gimenez mandating closure of public and private “recreational facilities” countywide. Key Biscayne police have been telling condo owners to close them, he said.

Miami-Dade Mayor

Carlos Gimenez

Davey said he received a report that one resident who tested positive for COVID-19 was still spending time with his family around the pool and lobby in their building. Davey said he told the village police chief to make sure the person self-isolates.

“It’s such a disregard for their neighbors. It’s preposterous,” Davey said.

The 700-unit Quantum on the Bay condo locked its gym two weeks ago and closed its two pools, party room and cyber lounge five days ago, said Andres Althabe, president of Quantum’s board and of the Biscayne Neighborhoods Association.

“We removed the chairs around the pools and a few people were out there putting their towels down to get some sun and we had to say, sorry, no, can’t do that or soon we’ll have a crowd,” Althabe said. “They asked if we could restrict numbers at the pool but how would we control that — counting people, separating people, disinfecting chairs? Nobody’s having fun, but they are slowly realizing they have an obligation to protect themselves so they can protect others.”

Residents of high-rises are in close quarters and it doesn’t help that Margaret Pace Park across the street from Quantum is closed off with yellow police tape, said Althabe, who is aware of two buildings in the Edgewater area that will have to shut down their pools under Gimenez’s order.

“We have 2,000 residents so it is a small, vertical town,” he said. “When people are that close together, there is friction.”

Quantum is among many buildings that have decided to prohibit visitors. No deliveries can be made directly to units.

“We don’t want outsiders to be in elevators or in contact with residents,” Althabe said. “You could be inviting in a friend who doesn’t show symptoms but is a carrier. We’ve got a lot of scared people here. We also have a few who have tried to sneak visitors in through the garage so we’ve posted security there. We’ll request that police remove trespassers. We could be too aggressive but we have no choice. Most residents agree that we’re doing the right thing to prevent deadly consequences.”

In Aventura, city officials issued a letter to a resident who, they were told, had shown COVID-19 symptoms but was nonetheless seen sitting on a bench outside their building.

The letter was hand-delivered to the resident — who had not been tested — by building management and Aventura police, according to City Manager Ronald Wasson.

“By going outside and sitting on a bench, [you are] not only violating the city’s order, but also endangering the health of your neighbors, their families, and the public at large,” the letter said, directing the person to stay home except to get medical care or police would issue a citation.

Aventura has already taken steps to close common spaces in multi-family buildings, but Wasson said enforcement is a challenge.

Ideally, he said, residents who have symptoms or may have been exposed to the virus should stay home, and let building management know if they need to leave so that elevators and common areas can be cleaned and cleared of other people.

“Nobody wants to be arresting residents who are not quarantining themselves,” Wasson said. “It puts everybody in a tough situation.”

Gimenez also scolded people for congregating on golf courses — not to play golf but to use the open space for a walk — and warned them not to get too close to one another.

“Apparently there are large groups of people gathering at golf courses with sidewalk access in Coral Gables and other places,” he said, referring to Granada Golf Course and other spots popular for their walking, jogging and biking circuits. “I have already closed all parks and golf courses countywide. Closed golf courses cannot become open parks. If you need to go out and walk your dog or get fresh air, that’s fine, but you must practice social distancing.

“Remember, act as if everyone is carrying the virus and stay six feet away from others.”

Gimenez, who previously issued an umbrella “safer at home” order, urged residents to run errands singly or in pairs to reduce the number of people in stores.“When you go grocery shopping or to the pharmacy, you shouldn’t take a carload of people with you,” he said. “One or two people going to the store from one household should be more than enough.”

Gimenez emphasized that police are patrolling public areas and stores to enforce social distancing protocol and “will shut down those businesses that are not marking locations so people stay at least six feet apart,” he said. “This applies to the employees at those stores and the patrons that must go to them. I expect municipal police departments to enforce this countywide order.”

Gimenez wants “safer at home” to be a region-wide mantra.

“To beat COVID-19 we cannot have people in groups anywhere in Miami-Dade County or anywhere in South Florida for that matter,” he said. “This is not a hurricane that is coming at us and will be gone after a day. This is a prolonged health emergency, and we have to act strategically as circumstances change.”