The city of Miami will enact a 10 p.m. curfew starting Friday night, creating the most severe restrictions yet for the city’s more than 460,000 residents as government leaders push to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19.
Miami’s five commissioners, who met via video conference Wednesday night, unanimously voted to set a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew. Police would have the ability to stop, question and arrest anyone out in public during this time period. There will be three general exceptions for people who are traveling to or from work, seeking medical services or walking their dogs within 250 feet of their homes.
City Manager Art Noriega was instructed to detail those exceptions more specifically in an emergency order that is expected to be written and signed Thursday.
The commission vote capped more than an hour of debate over the measure, as commissioners discussed whether a curfew would truly push people to stay at home.
The night before, the city had issued an emergency shelter-in-place order that strongly urged residents to stay at home as much as possible — an order Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina said mostly resulted in educating residents about the important of social distancing and warnings about the types of businesses that can be allowed to operate.
Now, under a curfew, Colina signaled that police would be stricter in keeping people off Miami’s streets at night.
“If there’s a curfew, we’re going to enforce it,” Colina said.
Commissioner Alex Diaz de la Portilla, who represents Miami’s District 1, sponsored the discussion and pushed for the curfew with support from Mayor Francis Suarez. Both argued that the exceptions will allow people who need to be outside their homes during those hours to do so without onerous restrictions.
“More importantly, it tells people that we’re serious about this,” Diaz de la Portilla said. “We have a very short period of time to flatten that curve and not overwhelm our healthcare system.”
Commissioner Keon Hardemon questioned if a curfew will truly address the issue of social distancing, where people are instructed to keep at least six feet away from others in public, to slow the spread of COVID-19. He also cautioned that enforcing a curfew could create more problems than solve them.
“When you put them under arrest, you’re putting them in a worse situation than they were before,” Hardemon said.
Commissioners discussed the message it would send to the public and some of the practical difficulties with enforcing a curfew for workers who, during those hours, pass through Miami while on their way to work or home in other cities. At the end of the debate, Miami’s five elected leaders all agreed to enact the curfew and trust police would not be draconian in its enforcement.
“The idea here is not to throw somebody in jail,” said Commissioner Joe Carollo. “None of us want to do that.”
The decision means Miami-Dade’s largest city — and Florida’s second largest — will further disable normal operations. Other Miami-Dade cities have enacted their own curfews. North Miami Beach has a 10 p.m. curfew. Sunny Isles Beach has an 11 p.m. curfew. Miami Beach’s government implemented a midnight curfew.