During the COVID-19 pandemic, Miami politicians at times have found themselves in the interesting position of issuing rules to slow the spread of the coronavirus, bending their own rules, posting evidence on social media, and then having to explain themselves for breaking said rules.
In May, then-Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Giménez posted a photo of himself on Instagram after a visit to a busy Miami Lakes barbershop where social distancing was unachievable. At the time, barbershops were allowed to reopen after a two-month shutdown, albeit under strict guidelines. Instagram commenters wondered whether guidelines fly out the window when a mayor shows up for a photo op.
And yesterday, City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez posted a photo on Instagram of a family dinner party he attended in celebration of his parents' 44th wedding anniversary.
"They are the pillars of our family," the caption reads. "My heroes and magnificent examples of love and devotion."
The photo shows ten members of the Suarez family at Caffe Abbracci in Coral Gables, with the guests of honor seated in the middle. No one in the photo is wearing a facemask.
The mayor's dad, Xavier Suarez, was elected the City of Miami's first Cuban-born mayor, serving from 1985 to 1993 and again, briefly, in the late 1990s, before he was unseated in a voter-fraud scandal. The paterfamilias was later elected to two terms as Miami-Dade commissioner, serving from 2011 until this past November.
Restaurants are certainly open for business in Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis lifted all coronavirus-related business restrictions in September. Indoor and outdoor dining alike are permitted, but Miami-Dade County has limited seating to a maximum of six people per table or ten people if they live together in the same household.
Several Instagram commenters shared their congratulations. Others called the celebration irresponsible and a bad example at a time when public health experts caution against family gatherings.
"Clown ???? show in full effect," one commenter said. "We have to close down businesses. Not spend time with family but politicians just like you do this. You’re the reason why people don’t trust government."
"Way too many people who aren’t from the same household not social distancing or wearing masks in this picture," someone else commented. "Seriously, bad judgment here."
When New Times contacted the mayor's office this morning, his spokeswoman noted that a "media availability" was under way. Her response to a follow-up request for comment: "We don't have a statement about this."
This isn't the first time Suarez has been put on blast on Instagram over COVID-19 safety restrictions. He was photographed at a swanky and very packed Design District restaurant in June, just a few days after calling a press conference to sound the alarm about a surge in COVID-19 cases. Swan, the restaurant where the mayor was photographed, was busted for violating safety guidelines. Tables were packed, maskless patrons danced, and people crowded around the bar, as first reported by Univision. (A spokeswoman for Suarez told the Miami Herald the mayor was at Swan for dinner, not a party.)
With Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve right around the corner, people are likely planning holiday gatherings big and small. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths continue to rise across the nation.
"The safest way to celebrate the winter holidays is to celebrate at home with people who live with you," according to the CDC website. "Gatherings with family and friends who do not live with you can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu."
Still, if you're planning a gathering with non-household members, the CDC offers guidance on how to limit the potential spread of COVID-19.
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