Students partying in Florida raise concern that virus will spread


People enjoy themselves along Ocean Drive on March 19, 2021 in Miami Beach, Florida. College students have arrived in the South Florida area for the annual spring break ritual. City officials are concerned with large spring break crowds as the coronavirus pandemic continues. Miami Beach police have reported hundreds of arrests and officers' stepped-up deployment to control the spring break crowds. [Photo/Agencies]

Miami Beach will extend a state of emergency in its entertainment district that could run through the end of the college spring break vacation period as police seek to control unruly crowds, which has resulted in more than 1,000 arrests and the seizure of about 80 guns.

The extension to be announced Tuesday in the Florida city will authorize a curfew Thursday night through early Monday that can be extended every week through April 13, the city said in a release Sunday.

"How many more things are we going to allow to occur before we step in?" Miami Beach Police Chief Richard Clements told an emergency meeting of the Miami Beach City Commission on Sunday to vote to enact several measures, including extending curfew until at least April 12, to curb the crowds. "I think this was the right decision," he said.

"When hundreds of people are running through the streets panicked, you realize that's not something that a police force can control," he said during the commission meeting Sunday.

Clements said that on March 15, an unusually large crowd blocked Ocean Drive, the main beachfront strip, "and basically had an impromptu street party". Fights were breaking out, setting off dangerous stampedes to safety, he said.

He said one restaurant was "turned upside down" in a melee, its "chairs were used as weapons", and broken glass covered the floor. Gunshots were fired, and a young woman was hospitalized with a cut leg, police said.

The crowd was defiant but mostly nonviolent on Saturday night, refusing to submit to a curfew that had been enacted only four hours earlier, when officers in bulletproof vests released pepper spray balls to break up a party.

On Saturday, interim city manager Raul Aguila imposed the nighttime curfew on the most touristy streets of South Beach, the center of the party, and ordered the closure of the three bridges that connect the island with Miami from 10 pm to 6 am. A crowd showed up again Sunday night, defying the curfew once more.

Aguila said that many people from other states were coming in "to engage in lawlessness and an 'anything-goes' party attitude". He said most weren't patronizing the businesses that need tourism dollars and instead were merely congregating by the thousands in the street.

The huge crowds of college students also have sparked fears that there could be a new coronavirus outbreak, as there has been little social distancing. Hundreds of rowdy revelers, many not wearing masks, as is required by a Miami Beach ordinance, sat indoors in bars and restaurants and met in large groups on Ocean Drive.

"The governor has said, you know, 'Everything's open, come on down.' But the problem is that we're still in the midst of a pandemic. It's not in our rearview mirror yet by any means, and it's certainly not in my county and my city,'' Mayor Dan Gelber said.

"So that's a challenge, and with this many people coming, we have, it's sort of a triple threat of too many crowds, too many people acting out, and a pandemic. And those three together just create a very challenging moment."

Florida has recorded more than 2 million coronavirus infections and more than 33,000 COVID-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

The state has reported the highest number of cases of the B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant that started in the UK. At least 12 percent of Floridians have been fully vaccinated, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The amended state of emergency will limit traffic on three causeways leading to South Beach to keep all but residents, hotel guests and employees from driving onto the island.

It also imposes a curfew in Miami Beach's entertainment district from 8 pm to 6 am and closes sidewalk dining from 7 pm through 6 am. All restaurants, bars and businesses are required to be closed by 8 pm. Only residents who live in the area will be allowed to walk down streets in the entertainment district.

John Walter, a resident of South Beach, said on Sunday night that when the curfew began, police pushed crowds off Ocean Drive, and many ended up in his neighborhood.

"People were walking up and down the parked cars, he told the CBS affiliate in Miami. "My neighbor's kids were screaming. When the police showed up, people started running toward our building. My neighbor and I sat on the floor and put our feet on the staircase to try and block them from coming in."

2021年3月19日,佛罗里达州迈阿密海滩,人们沿着海洋大道尽情享受。大学生们已经到达南佛罗里达地区参加一年一度的春假仪式。随着冠状病毒大流行的继续,城市官员对春假人群感到担忧。迈阿密海滩警方报告称,数百人被捕,警方加强了部署,以控制春假人群。[图片/机构]迈阿密海滩将延长其娱乐区的紧急状态,这可能会持续到大学春假假期结束,因为警方试图控制不守规矩的人群,导致1000多人被捕,约80支枪被缴获。佛罗里达市在周日的一份新闻稿中说,周二宣布的延长将授权从周四晚上到周一凌晨的宵禁,可以每周延长到4月13日。"在我们介入之前,我们还要允许发生多少事情?"迈阿密海滩警察局局长理查德·克莱门茨(Richard Clements)周日在迈阿密海滩市委员会的一次紧急会议上表示,将投票制定几项措施,包括将宵禁延长至至少4月12日,以控制人群。“我认为这是正确的决定,”他说。“当数百人惊慌失措地在街上奔跑时,你会意识到这不是警察能控制的,”他在周日的委员会会议上说。克莱门特说,3月15日,一大群不同寻常的人封锁了主要海滨地带海洋大道,“基本上举行了一场即兴的街头派对”。他说,战斗爆发了,引发了危险的人群涌向安全地带。他说,一家餐馆在混战中“被翻了个底朝天”,它的“椅子被用作武器”,碎玻璃覆盖了地板。警方说,有人开枪,一名年轻女子因腿部受伤住院。周六晚上,人群桀骜不驯,但大多是非暴力的,拒绝服从仅在四小时前颁布的宵禁,当时穿着防弹背心的官员释放胡椒喷雾球来解散一个政党。周六,临时城市经理劳尔·阿吉拉(Raul Aguila)对派对中心南海滩(South Beach)游客最多的街道实施了宵禁,并下令从晚上10点至早上6点关闭连接该岛和迈阿密的三座桥梁。周日晚上,一群人再次出现,再次无视宵禁。阿吉拉说,许多来自其他州的人进来是为了“参与无法无天和‘不择手段’的政党态度”。他说,大多数人并没有光顾需要旅游收入的企业,而是聚集在街上成千上万的人。大批大学生也引发了对可能爆发新的冠状病毒的担忧,因为社会距离很小。按照迈阿密海滩法令的要求,数百名喧闹的狂欢者坐在酒吧和餐馆里,在海洋大道上成群结队地聚会,其中许多人没有戴面具。“州长说,你知道,‘一切都是开放的,下来吧。’但问题是我们仍处于流行病之中。“无论如何,它还没有出现在我们的后视镜里,当然也不在我的县和我的城市里,”市长丹·盖尔伯说。“所以这是一个挑战,随着这么多人的到来,我们面临着三重威胁:太多的人群,太多的人采取行动,以及一场流行病。这三者共同创造了一个极具挑战性的时刻。“自大流行开始以来,佛罗里达州已记录了200多万例冠状病毒感染和33000例新冠肺炎死亡。该州报告了始于英国的最高数量的B.1.1.7冠状病毒变异体病例。根据疾病控制和预防中心(CDC)的数据,至少12%的佛罗里达人已经完全接种疫苗。修订后的紧急状态将限制通往南海滩的三条堤道的交通,以防止除居民、酒店客人和员工以外的所有人开车进入该岛。它还在迈阿密海滩的娱乐区实行晚上8点到早上6点的宵禁,并从晚上7点到早上6点关闭人行道用餐。所有餐馆、酒吧和商店都必须在晚上8点前关门。只有住在该地区的居民才能在娱乐区的街道上行走。南海滩居民约翰·沃尔特(John Walter)周日晚上表示,宵禁开始时,警方将人群赶出了海洋大道,许多人最终来到了他的街区。他告诉迈阿密的哥伦比亚广播公司下属,人们在停放的汽车上走来走去。“我邻居的孩子在尖叫。当警察出现时,人们开始向我们的大楼跑去。我和邻居坐在地板上,把脚放在楼梯上,试图阻止他们进来。”

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