We’re getting into the heart of spring break season when college students from across the country typically flock to warmer climates to party until dawn. Like everything else, however, the pandemic is complicating matters. A number of schools have canceled spring break to prevent students from generating superspreader events. That won’t deter all of them, though, and the municipal government of Miami Beach, Florida is gravely concerned. Governor DeSantis has issued an executive order opening the state back up for business, but the Mayor of Miami Beach is still insisting on a zero-tolerance approach, ostensibly to prevent a new spike in COVID cases. Some of the restrictions he’s calling for, however, are simply strange. (Wall Street Journal, subscription required)
Nearly a year after some Florida spring breakers refused to let the coronavirus interrupt their parties and helped trigger a wave of lockdowns, this city is bracing for a fresh crop of revelers.
Though many colleges have canceled spring break to prevent students from congregating in vacation spots, officials here are expecting a large influx over the coming weeks. Flights and hotels are cheap. Brutal winter storms in much of the country left people yearning for an escape. And Florida’s pandemic rules on bars and nightclubs are more lenient than those in many states.
“We could potentially see a truly outsized spring break at a time when the last thing we want are major gatherings,” said Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber, a Democrat. He cited public-health specialists’ concerns that such crowds could generate another surge of Covid-19 cases.
As I said, some of these restrictions seem like they are less focused on the potential for a lot of new COVID cases and more designed to simply punish college students and keep them away. For example, extra police officers and code enforcement officials are being brought in on the late shift to enforce a midnight curfew. Does COVID spread more easily at two in the morning?
Alcohol is banned on the beach from February 22nd through April 12th. So are boom boxes. Alcohol is normally allowed on the beach for those of legal drinking age. And what’s with the ban on boom boxes? I’ve been checking the CDC guidelines on a fairly regular basis and I haven’t seen anything about music making the virus dance from one person to another more rapidly or efficiently.
Speaking of music, the codes have been altered to forbid any music being played in bars and restaurants or in other public venues any louder than “ambient noise levels.” Again, how is controlling the volume of the music doing anything to hinder the spread of the virus?
Beach patrols have been out during the day to enforce social distancing rules. They are also “encouraging” mask use where “appropriate.” This is being done despite the fact that there is no statewide mask mandate in Florida. As the WSJ reports, all of these restrictions have led to party planners moving their activities onto large boats offshore. That isn’t slowing down the mayor, though. They’re deploying police patrol boats to shut down anyone who looks like they’re getting “too crazy.”
What they’re really doing is shutting down the tourist industry during one of Florida’s peak business seasons. The Miami Beach city manager, Raul Aguila, is even quoted as saying, “If you are coming here with an anything-goes party attitude, change your flight reservation now and go to Vegas.” Just as the businesses that employ a vast number of residents are finally getting the chance to kick things back into gear, the Mayor is trying to keep their seats empty. Are they really going to prevent a superspreader event by turning Miami Beach into a No Fun Zone for spring break?