Miami-Dade Commissioner Visited Senior Centers During Coronavirus Outbreak

Screenshot via Joe Martinez / Twitter
Miami-Dade Commissioner Joe A. Martinez visited two senior centers and shook plenty of hands amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
Update, 9:30 a.m.: Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez has tested negative for COVID-19, according to a report from the Miami Herald. Nevertheless, Gimenez says he is self-isolating as a precautionary measure.

Earlier this week, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Joe A. Martinez complained during a public meeting that he was "tired of" hearing about the novel coronavirus outbreak and said he was happy that, at the time, some major public events had not been canceled yet. That posturing was foolish and downright dangerous.

But since then, Martinez might have done something even more damaging. According to his own Twitter feed, he visited at least two senior centers in his district in the middle of the pandemic.

Even more worrisome: Martinez could have been carrying coronavirus. Yesterday Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said he would self-quarantine after coming into close contact Monday with a Brazilian official who has since tested positive for coronavirus. Gimenez and Martinez attended the same public meeting Tuesday. After that meeting, Martinez visited two senior centers Wednesday and Thursday.
Neither Martinez nor staffers in his office responded to messages from New Times last night. But Martinez's Thursday visit occurred after the mayor declared a state of emergency in Miami-Dade and after the Florida Department of Health announced the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the county Wednesday night.

It's also possible Martinez's second visit came close to broaching Gov. Ron DeSantis' order banning anyone suspected of having COVID-19 from visiting nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, and other areas housing elderly or vulnerable people. According to the Miami Herald, DeSantis on Wednesday banned "any person who has or been in close contact with a person infected with COVID-19 who has not tested negative" from visiting a nursing home for 14 days.

It's unclear if Martinez knew Gimenez had attended a reception with Fabio Wajngarten, the press secretary of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. News broke around 5 p.m. Wednesday that Wajgarten was being tested for coronavirus; after those tests came back positive Thursday, Gimenez, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, and Sen. Rick Scott all announced they were self-quarantining after coming into contact with Bolsonaro and his staff in Florida. (Sen. Marco Rubio and President Donald Trump also were in close contact with Bolsonaro and Wajngarten but have not yet said if they will self-quarantine.)

As of now, no Miami officials have tested positive for the virus. But Martinez's visits are still boneheaded. Seniors are among the most vulnerable people and the likeliest to wind up in the hospital or dead from the virus. In addition to possibly carrying the virus into a senior center, Martinez also posted multiple photos of himself touching the elderly and shaking their hands.

Via email, Martinez's 2020 election opponent, former state Rep. Robert Ascencio, called on Martinez to show better leadership during the outbreak.

"Commissioner Joe Martinez is putting our communities at risk not only with inaccurate and dangerous comments but also by visiting senior centers and putting the elderly in danger," Asencio said. "His actions are unacceptable, irresponsible, and an utter disservice to the people of Miami-Dade County and District 11."