The city of Miami Beach, worried about big crowds filling the streets of South Beach and the threat of a resurgent coronavirus, moved up its curfew on Saturday in an effort to shut down late-night spring break partying it said had gotten out of control.
The 8 p.m. curfew takes effect in the city’s South Beach entertainment district. Videos on social media from Friday night showed hundreds of people gathered outside after dark and law enforcement dispersing crowds.
“It looked like a rock concert,” Raul J. Aguila, the interim city manager, said in a hastily called news conference on Saturday afternoon. “You couldn’t see pavement, and you couldn’t see grass.”
Miami-Dade County has recently endured one of the nation’s worst outbreaks, and more than 32,000 Floridians have died from the virus, an unthinkable cost that the state’s leaders rarely acknowledge. The state is also thought to have the highest concentration of B.1.1.7, the more contagious and possibly more lethal virus variant first identified in Britain.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said on Saturday that he was concerned that Americans were getting too comfortable as vaccinations gathered speed and the country’s daily caseload had decreased far below its January peak. But cases have plateaued at a high level, similar to the summer’s surge, according to a New York Times database.
“History has shown us that when you have that plateauing, that’s usually the forerunner of another surge — we’ve actually seen that in the European Union,” Dr. Fauci said on the “Today” show, referring to the latest surge in Europe that has spurred governments to reimpose lockdown restrictions.
“I’m really concerned if we declare victory prematurely that that’s the same thing that’s going to happen,” Dr. Fauci said about the situation in Europe. “If we can just hang on a bit longer, the more people get vaccinated, the less likelihood that there is going to be a surge.”
In Miami Beach, law enforcement officials said large crowds had been drawn to the city because they were looking for a place with fewer virus restrictions. Hotel rooms and flights have been deeply discounted, to make up for the months of lost time.
Hotels in Miami Beach do not have to close down but guests are being asked to stay on hotel premises after curfew, and restaurants, bars and sidewalk cafes must close by 8 p.m.
Miami Beach’s entertainment district includes the iconic Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue, as well as Washington Avenue and Española Way, from Fifth through 16th Streets. The police will also block people who are not city residents, hotel guests or employees who work on South Beach from driving into the city along the MacArthur, Venetian and Julia Tuttle causeways beginning at 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. the next day.
The emergency measures will be in place for 72 hours, until the City Commission can meet to decide on a longer-term plan. Miami-Dade County already has a countywide curfew in place at midnight.