CBS Miami: “COVID Q&A: Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber Says Gov. Ron DeSantis’ ‘Approach To This Is Killing People’”

The most recent weekly White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing says Florida is in the red zone for COVID-19 cases.

As a result, mayors all across the state, especially here in South Florida, are urging Gov. Ron DeSantis to take action.

One of those mayors is Dan Gelber of Miami Beach, who joined Eliott Rodriguez and Karli Barnett on CBS4 at 7 on Wednesday night to share more on the plea to the governor.

Q: We just heard from governors across the country urging their residents in their respective states to mask up. We did not hear from Gov. Ron DeSantis. In fact, the governor has been pretty quiet in the last couple of weeks. What do you think is happening? Why do you think the governor has been so silent?

A: I don’t know why he’s been silent, but he needs to lead, desperately. Now he needs to lead. You can see governors from all over the country – Republicans, Democrats – are dealing with this as a medical, scientific issue, not a political one. The election is over. The national election is over. His approach to this is killing people. It’s unmistakably clear that it’s not managing that pandemic well. This notion of opening everything up and then simultaneously limiting the ability of us to have mask mandates and other things is just creating a spread that is dangerous. And we’re seeing it here in Dade County, and in Broward County, we’re seeing it. Over 2,000 in one day, over the weekend – 1,800, 1,700. You know, it’s just happening every day. And in two weeks, those positives have a certain amount that will end up in the hospital. And then weeks after that a certain amount of them will die. So this is a real thing. He’s got to change direction.READ

Q: Well, Mayor Gelber, how important is it in your opinion that the governor give local authorities power again to deal with the pandemic in their own way?

A: Well, we’ve asked him to do that. I have no idea why he stopped my city from enforcing an individual mask mandate. It makes no sense. Because, by the way, if you want to open up the economy, the one thing that allows you to open it up is wearing a mask. Because you can you can use the economy with a mask on. But by taking that out of the arsenal, and a couple other things as well, he’s essentially allowed the disease to spread. And, by the way, I think it has to be noted, the people he’s listening to, the advisors, are not Dr. Fauci, are not our local or state infectious disease experts. They are Dr. [Scott] Atlas and these other gentlemen who are pursuing this theory of herd immunity, where you let the disease rip through the community and try to protect the vulnerable. And, you know, that doesn’t work. It’s an outlier fringe theory, and the governor’s following it. He needs to be a little more mainstream about this because residents are suffering.

Q: Well, let me ask you this. The governor has said in the past that he thinks a statewide mandate is not the way to go. That Florida varies from one region to another. He doesn’t want to do something for the entire state. He’d rather the local communities handle it. What do you say to people, though, who are suffering from COVID fatigue? They want to go out. They want to have Thanksgiving dinner with their family members. What do you tell them?

A: Listen, it’s very hard, and we all see it and. Everybody is ready for this to be over. And, by the way, the vaccine is coming. But that is exactly the time you shouldn’t let down your guard and you shouldn’t coast. You need to, especially now. This disease is killing people. Like yesterday, 19 people died in Dade County. We’ve had days where upwards of 100 have died in Dade County in a single day. In my little city, 60 people have died, and hundreds and thousands are hospitalized possibly with a long term condition. So I know people want to experience Thanksgiving like they like to, but they have to understand that this is a time to be careful. And the governor has to lead on this. That’s what’s so weird, is that this is exactly the time. I mean, when there’s a hurricane coming, you can’t stop people from showing up in government and telling us what to do. But now, there’s nobody telling us anything. And only the mayors. And that’s why we had this call today, where mayors from St. Pete to Broward County and quite a few from Dade, all party affiliations, said, ‘Lead us, don’t hide and stop this fringe theories of science.’ Please, just lead us. Give us a statewide mask mandate. Let us enforce masks locally. Restore statewide testing. Because right now a lot of that testing is going away and the county is picking it up but that won’t last forever. And also improve your contact tracing which needs to be improved desperately.

View the original article here.

Florida Politics: “Dan Gelber argues Ron DeSantis is adopting stealth ‘herd immunity’ strategy”

The Miami Beach Mayor spoke about Florida’s COVID-19 outbreak on CNN Tuesday.

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber says he believes the state is leaning on a strategy to achieve “herd immunity” in handling the state’s COVID-19 outbreak.

Gelber made the comments during a Tuesday morning appearance on CNN’s New Day. Gelber was asked to elaborate on his accusation that Gov. Ron DeSantis is pushing for herd immunity.

“I don’t think it’s an accusation,” Gelber responded. “I’m not sure he would deny it. You know, he hasn’t had Dr. [Anthony] Fauci here. He has had Dr. [Scott] Atlas.”

The Governor’s office has denied those claims in the past. But DeSantis has repeatedly flirted with the theory, which argues for protecting vulnerable populations while allowing less susceptible individuals to live their normal, daily lives and likely contract the virus.

Once enough people are infected, the virus would no longer have enough hosts to continue spreading.

As Gelber mentioned, DeSantis did invite Dr. Atlas to Florida in August. Atlas is a White House advisor favored by President Donald Trump due to his opposition to some social distancing efforts and mask wearing. Atlas has also backed a herd immunity approach in handling the virus.

On Tuesday, Gelber pushed back against the effectiveness of that plan, pointing out that “vulnerable populations” for this virus include not only the elderly, but also people with asthma, weight problems, diabetes and other conditions.

“Those people aren’t living in segregated communities,” Gelber said. “They’re living in homes with younger people, or other people. That’s how our society exists, so the problem is you can’t protect them.”

He argued the plan would struggle to work in Florida and added, “I’m not sure where it would work.”

It’s also been shown that contracting the virus does not necessarily make someone immune.

Gelber lobbed criticism at DeSantis for pushing the state into Phase Three as well. That late September push included South Florida, which has served as the epicenter of the outbreak. Prior to that announcement, South Florida had reopened at a slower pace than the rest of the state out of caution.

“The Governor, really what he did was he opened up everything and also stopped local government from trying to protect its own residents,” Gelber said, referencing a state order blocking local officials from collecting fines from people who disobey mask mandates.

“I get millions of people visiting my community. I’m not just protecting our residents. We’re trying to protect people who are going back into the communities from which they came. So it’s really become a problem. We are trying to literally protect our residents from their government at this point because we can’t even impose a requirement that people get citations for not wearing a mask. And that’s become a real problem, because I worry about the uptick becoming a surge.”

Florida has recently seen a slight rise in new cases, though has yet to see an explosion in the infection rate the state saw in June after the previous attempt at reopening.

View the original article here.

WLRN: “Miami Beach Finishes First Park Renovations From $169 Million In General Obligation Bond Funds”

Dozens of Miami Beach middle schoolers rushed onto a newly renovated baseball field with fresh, bright orange clay during a ribbon-cutting ceremony held Thursday for Polo Park, adjacent to Nautilus Middle School. 

The park was the first of 57 project improvements planned under the city’s general obligation bond program. Last November, City of Miami Beach residents approved $439 million in funding that will go towards projects like park enhancement, public safety and infrastructure improvements. According to city officials, $169 million of the bond program funds will be reserved for park improvement projects. 

Miami Beach Parks and Recreation Director John Rebar said improvements on Polo Park alone cost about $500,000. 

PoloPark.jpg
Children from Nautilus Middle School play on the newly renovated Polo Park on Thursday, September 5, 2019.

“There’s new dugouts, new drinking fountains, clay, irrigation, bases,” he said. 

“You’ll also see a lot of landscaping throughout the park, and we’ve added a perimeter walkway for people to enjoy around the park.”

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Miami Beach middle schoolers play on the renovated Polo Park’s baseball field on Thursday, September 5. 2019.

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber stepped onto the pitcher’s mound and threw the first ball. He said he grew up playing baseball here, but back then it was just a few muddy fields. 

“I’ve been playing here since I was a child, and we’ve never had anything like this,” he said. 

The other general obligation bond funding will go towards neighborhoods and infrastructure projects totaling $198 million, and towards police, fire, and public safety projects totaling $72 million.

View the original article here.

The Washington Times: “Dan Gelber, Miami Beach mayor: We’re a week or two away from ‘shelter-in-place'”

Dan Gelber, the mayor of Miami Beach, said his jurisdiction and other spots in Florida are likely a week or two away from resorting to strict “shelter-in-place” orders if the coronavirus situation does not improve.

“If our hospitals are incapable of providing care to the community, that’s a hard stop for everybody,” Mr. Gelber said on CNN. “So I suspect if in a week or two this is not changed in any way, then we’re all going to do it.”

“Whether the governor wants us to or not, we’ll do it, the county will do it, lots of the cities will do it — it’ll just be a shelter in place again,” he said.

Mr. Gelber said people can stop that outcome from happening if they “stop listening to people telling them that everything’s fine.”

Florida on Sunday reported more than 15,000 new coronavirus cases, setting a single-day record for any U.S. state.

“For crying out loud, we had the vice president here last week telling us that we’re in a much better place and then immediately — it’s [as] if the virus had a heightened sense of irony and karma — we had the worst couple days in the history of the pandemic anywhere in the world, literally, in Florida,” Mr. Gelber said.

“You can’t keep telling people that everything is just fine and not to worry, because this is not a virus that responds to political speaking points,” he said.

Other states are also pausing their reopening plans or dialing things back.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday announced he was closing bars and indoor eating at restaurants.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner on Monday said he proposed a “two-week shutdown” for his city to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to try to help get things back under control.

View the original article here.

MSN: “Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber: Wearing a Mask Isn’t Political”

It’s not a political statement, it’s just a statement of caring and health’ — This Florida mayor is urging residents to take proper precautions as COVID-19 cases spike in the state.

View the original article and video here.

CNN: “Mayor on beach closures: I don’t mind being the bad guy”

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez announced he will sign an emergency order to close all beaches in the county for the Fourth of July weekend. CNN’s Laura Coates discusses the move with Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber.

View the original article and video here.

Tampa Dispatch: “MIAMI’S DAN GELBER JOINS PETE BUTTIGIEG, JOYCE CRAIG, QUINTON LUCAS IN COVID TRUMP ATTACK BY DEFENDING OBAMACARE”

Health Care Voter hosted the latest in its extended town hall series “Our Lives on the Line: The Hardest Hit” featuring four mayors from across the country. The discussion focused on some of the cities left behind by the Trump administration’s haphazard response to the coronavirus pandemic. Led by former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, and Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber, the town hall discussion raised serious concerns about protecting the health and safety of the public without support from the federal government.

The mayors’ concerns included inconsistent leadership from the Trump administration, a lack of federal funding to support increased testing, and the need for clearer, data-backed guidelines for how to keep their residents safe. They also stressed that despite reopening efforts, the crisis is far from over and communities will need robust, ongoing support from the White House and Congress as the country continues to navigate the pandemic.

Some highlights from the conversation:

“A global pandemic of this scale must be met with relentless courage and bold action from our leaders — action that puts the health and safety of the American people first,” said former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana. Now more than ever, we need access to quality, affordable health care and a vaccine that is available to all — not just the lucky few. We fail if our health system favors some and fails to protect our country’s most vulnerable — our seniors, our unemployed, our undocumented peoples, our veterans, and so many others. Quality, affordable health care for all must be at the center of our recovery from this pandemic, and that is why I am proud to be a Health Care Voter.”View Mayor Pete’s video message here.

Dan Gelber

“If I had the opportunity to speak to the president, I would advocate for direct funding to our cities and to our states,” said Mayor Joyce Craig of Manchester, New Hampshire. “We have about $2.5 million that we’re able to get reimbursement for, but it cannot be used for losses and revenues, and that’s really where the hardship is going to come in my community. We have no sales or income tax. It’s completely property tax driven, and we know there’s going to be a decrease in revenues coming from the state, from parking revenues, from property taxes. We really, really need some help there.”

“My state, like Mayor Gelber’s, has avoided Medicaid expansion, which I think creates greater challenges on our health infrastructure and network. Our department of public health is trying to handle far more than it can,” said Mayor Quinton Lucas of Kansas City, Missouri. “There is another challenge: Although the CARES Act has reportedly released a great deal of funding to state and local governments, a lot of local governments, mine as well, have had trouble receiving them. At this point, Kansas City has not received a single dollar of federal CARES Act money. There is much more we need to do in order to make sure that we’re addressing the crisis in the long term.”

“It’s ironic that our legislature refused to do the Medicaid expansion that other places have done, and has really led the charge against the Affordable Care Act. It’s ironic because in my county, there are at least one or two congressional districts that lead the nation in people applying for health care under the Affordable Care Act,” said Mayor Dan Gelber of Miami Beach, Florida. “So, we have a population that desperately needs health care and because of the Affordable Care Act, people have more affordable insurance. Since efforts to curtail it, we’ve seen the opposite.”

About ‘Our Lives on the Line: The Hardest Hit’

Health Care Voter’s ‘Hardest Hit’ series consists of six Facebook live town halls, featuring members of Congress, governors, local elected officials, advocates, and the medical professionals who are putting their lives on the line to fight the pandemic. The series elevates the voices of some of the people hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic: people with disabilities, Black people, Latinos, Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, and mayors of cities and towns left without the resources to combat this pandemic.

The ‘Hardest Hit’ events comes after the month-long ‘Our Lives On The Line’ digital town hall series highlighted the stories of people affected by the spread of the coronavirus, and how we’re still fighting to protect the Affordable Care Act and lower skyrocketing prescription drug prices in the face of this pandemic. The tour was extended in response to the enthusiasm of more than 1.5 million total viewers, widespread national and local press, and robust social media engagement.

View the original article here.

Miami Herald: “Trump Muslim ban denounced by former federal prosecutors from South Florida”

Three dozen former federal prosecutors — many Democrats, but some Republicans — issued a statement Thursday denouncing President Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily banning people from the predominantly Muslim countries of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen from entering the United States.

“If we were called upon to defend the executive order, could we do it within the guidelines we learned and lived by as lawyers for the United States?” said the statement signed by 36 former federal prosecutors who worked in South Florida, including three U.S. attorneys in Miami. “We could not. …

“It would be our job, if we were representing the United States today, to say, no, this executive order is wrong and should not be defended,” the statement reads.

The group condemned Trump’s order as “a thinly veiled attempt to exclude Muslims from certain countries based on their religion,” and lauded Acting Attorney General Sally Yates for refusing to enforce the order because she did not believe it was lawful. Yates was summarily fired by the president.

Last Friday, Trump issued his order, which focused on “protecting the nation from foreign terrorist entry into the United States.” It prompted praise from his supporters who elected him, but also provoked outcry from protesters across the country, including Miami.

His order not only bans for 90 days visitors from those seven Muslim countries from entering the country, but also permanently bars the entry of Syrian refugees until the president determines their admission would be “consistent with the national interest.”

The president’s order also suspends for 120 days the U.S. admissions program for all refugees while a review of the screening process takes place. His order, however, gives priority to refugee claims made by persecuted members of religious minorities, namely Christians.

The South Florida group of former federal prosecutors — including U.S. attorneys Roberto Martinez, Marcos Jimenez and Jeffrey Sloman, along with former state Sen. Dan Gelber — said they were compelled to issue their statement “in light of these extraordinary recent events,” including Yates’ firing.

“We could not candidly tell a court that the United States has the right to turn away refugees fleeing grave danger, even though they have already been fully vetted and approved for admission,” the group wrote. “We could not candidly tell a court, consistent with these principles, that the United States has the right to bar admission to people who are otherwise lawfully permitted to enter the United States, based solely on the fact that others of their religion are perceived to be potential security threats.

“We could not candidly tell a court that the United States has the right to detain or forcibly return people who have lawfully traveled here, based solely on their religion and country of origin.”

The signatories said Trump’s order “would permit the president to give preference to Christians over Muslims for admission to the United States,” and that such a “religious preference” does not comport “with our Constitution.”

The group concluded its two-page letter on a note of equal protection: “In short, the executive order is inimical to the values of the Justice Department and the United States, most significantly, that individuals may not be treated more harshly under the law solely on account of their religion.”

Read more here.