Only a few months ago, with COVID numbers dropping and vaccination rates on the increase, Miamians looked forward to a "hot vaxx summer" filled with meals out with friends and mask-free beach days and visits to museums, movies, and malls.
But now Miami is seeing an alarming uptick in COVID cases and a persistent lag in vaccinations. On July 19, Jackson Health System Hospitals reported a 111 percent increase in COVID cases
, prompting it to upgrade its COVID threat level to "high" at most of its facilities.
On July 27, the CDC issued new health recommendations
for fully vaccinated people, urging them to "wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission."
Yesterday, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava held a news conference to encourage Miami residents to get vaccinated and mask back up. With a COVID positivity rate exceeding 10 percent and hospitalizations increasing, businesses and community leaders need to encourage mask-wearing and vaccinations," the mayor argued.
"We need to get back to the basics. Get vaccinated, wear a mask in public indoor settings. Practice social distancing, and stay home if you're sick," she said.
"We have all come too far, we have sacrificed too much," she added. "Our economy is just beginning to rebound."
As an example of a model that should be followed, Cava cited Macchialina, an Italian restaurant in Miami Beach where management recently reinstituted indoor mask requirements for employees and guests alike.
Macchialina partner Jacqueline Pirolo tells New Times
that the decision to require masks again was based on the CDC's recent recommendation.
"It's a challenging and confusing time and there are a lot of unknowns, so from the beginning of the pandemic, we have always followed the CDC guidelines," Pirolo says.
Pirolo says that as COVID numbers started to increase this summer, she and her partners, Michael Pirolo and Jen Chaefsky, reassessed their policies.
"We just decided to get ahead of this and put the mask mandate back into place," Pirolo says. "The safety of our staff and guests has always been number one. Ethically, we don't want anyone to get sick, compounded with the fact that we have a shortage in staff and we can't afford to have someone come down with even a cold."
Macchialina's policy is to ask everyone — from guests to staff — to wear a mask when entering and exiting the restaurant and when walking to the restroom. In addition, the restaurant asks that guests don a mask when speaking with staff for an extended period. "If it's a few seconds of interaction, it's fine, but if, say, you're going through the wine list, we ask that everyone is masked up."
Pirolo says guests and staff alike appear to be onboard with the policies. Many guests, she notes, are locals who've been coming to the restaurant for years. "We're all in a community. At Macchialina, we pride ourselves in being part of the neighborhood. We're just trying to keep our neighbors safe."
Pirolo, who says she attended yesterday's press conference at the invitation of the mayor's office, emphasizes that the key to getting back to "normal" is to get vaccinated.
"Let's try and encourage people to get vaccinated," she says.
Macchialina. 820 Alton Rd., Miami Beach; 305-534-2124; macchialina.com.