Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has made a habit of hamstringing local governments from making and enforcing safety guidelines that make sense for their communities. Back in September, the governor unexpectedly launched Florida into the final phase of reopening, allowing businesses to resume operations at mostly full capacity and with limited social-distancing protocols. And he barred local governments from closing down businesses and imposing any other strict restrictions.
As Florida hits the one-year mark on the initial shutdowns, the governor's dismissal of local mandates has escalated even further. Earlier this month, DeSantis announced the state would waive all fines for people and businesses that violate local COVID laws. The retroactive waiver applies to any fines imposed from March 1, 2020 to March 10, 2021.
Despite the governor's order, Miami-Dade County says its mask mandate is still very much in the books. County police officers are continuing to distribute masks and inform people of the local rules. And county employees are still issuing citations to both people and businesses. (The governor's order doesn't address citations issued after March 10, 2021.)
Under the county's mask mandate, which went into effect in its first iteration last April, everyone in Miami-Dade is required to wear a facial covering when in public — with some exceptions. People aren't required to wear masks inside a private home or car, a religious institution, or hotel room, or while they're actively eating, drinking, or receiving services that require access to their nose or mouth. Masks aren't required for children under age 2 or people with pre-existing conditions that make breathing more difficult with a mask.
If you're outdoors, sitting or standing still, and are separated from the next person by at least ten feet — at the beach, say — you also aren't required to wear a mask. People engaged in "strenuous physical activity" outdoors while social distancing aren't required to wear masks, but spectators at sporting events are.
And getting fully vaccinated doesn't mean you can go ahead and throw out all of your masks. There's nothing in Miami-Dade's mask order that says vaccinated people are exempt from the requirement, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says vaccinated people should continue to wear a mask in public.
Although some Florida cities are no longer issuing mask citations, others are taking action against businesses that aren't in compliance with local rules.
City of Miami police officers are still giving out citations and shutting down businesses that don't comply with county COVID restrictions, and the City of Miami Beach says it also continues to shut down businesses that are found to be in violation.
"We continue to promote the use of face coverings in public," says Miami Beach spokesperson Melissa Berthier.
Police, code enforcement officers, and park rangers in the city have been handing out masks to people who aren't wearing them, Berthier says, and business districts like Lincoln Road are doing the same.
Finally, visitors and travelers can expect to wear a mask at Miami International Airport — the county requires it. The airport has staff dedicated to making sure all travelers wear masks, and officers inside the terminals will hand them out to people who say they don't have one.
"There's also a federal requirement in place for all transportation facilities to reinforce those efforts, and passengers without a mask may be denied entry, boarding, or continued transport," Indira Almeida-Pardillo, a spokesperson for MIA, tells New Times. "Failure to comply with the mask requirement can result in civil penalties."
For now, the CDC continues to recommend that people wear masks in public and at any events and gatherings.