DeSantis finally met with Miami-Dade’s new mayor to talk COVID. Here’s what happened
Miami-Dade County's political leaders were frustrated when they tried to get Governor Ron DeSantis on the phone to talk about COVID-19 in Florida's pandemic hotspot as cases continue to rise.
When DeSantis came to Key Biscayne on Monday to announce a joint effort with the county on restoration projects in Biscayne Bay, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava took the opportunity to meet the governor in person for the first time to to talk about the pandemic.
DeSantis spoke to the media outside the Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park lighthouse and congratulated Levine Cava on her election last month. He was "ready to work with [her] on whatever we can to help the county."
Levine Cava, who was elected in November, along with city officials across the county, condemned a move by DeSantis in late September to prevent local governments from closing shops or enforcing COVID fines. DeSantis seemed to acknowledge, as before, that he would not budge.
"I told her she ran on a certain platform and that will follow up," DeSantis said. "If I don't agree with everything, I won't go into it. I'll find examples in which we can work together. So our door is always open."
Levine Cava also took a conciliatory tone on Monday, saying she had a "great conversation" with the governor.
"We covered a whole range of topics including some COVID topics," she told the Miami Herald. "We'll continue with the tools we have in our toolbox, including all executive orders."
The county's COVID-related executive orders, including its mask mandate, currently have limited weight as DeSantis' order prevents fines from being collected. Levine Cava said earlier this month that she continues to support the issuance of mask quotations with fines to be enforced after the governor's order is lifted.
But she said on Monday that she is more focused on "what we have right now, what works well". This includes a nationwide messaging campaign asking residents to wear masks.
DeSantis suggested the state can help Miami-Dade residents by distributing COVID vaccines to long-term care facilities in the county. The state's health department is sending vaccination teams to long-term care facilities to vaccinate those who are most at risk of developing COVID-19.
"I told the mayor that if there are more facilities, if we can send more strike teams, that's what we want to do," said DeSantis. "We want to be helpful."
State officials expect their first roughly 61,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine on Monday, followed by over 300,000 doses on Tuesday, DeSantis said. He also said a second shipment of the Pfizer vaccine, containing approximately 120,000 doses, was expected Monday or Tuesday.
The governor has still not met with Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, who was hired by the Miami-Dade League of Cities in late November to bring the case to DeSantis for greater local scrutiny of COVID enforcement efforts.
Suarez said last week that he had made unsuccessful "personal attempts" to contact the governor. "I asked people who acted as emissaries. It didn't work," he said.
DeSantis has been strongly against business closings, recently saying, "If a local leader wants to put [people] out of work, you're damn right, I'll limp you off."
Despite calls for greater authority to enforce mask rules, Miami-Dade county and city officials have not pushed for shop closings or stricter indoor restaurant capacity restrictions in recent weeks. However, Miami city regulators have shut down some businesses that violate their rules, including the county midnight lockdown.
The county has extended the curfew to 1 a.m. on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve.
A recent report by the White House Task Force that refused to release DeSantis urged the state to restrict indoor dining, reduce bar capacity, and introduce stricter guidelines on the wearing of masks.
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