One day after the spring break oasis of South Beach descended into chaos, with the police struggling to control overwhelming crowds and making scores of arrests, officials in Miami Beach decided on Sunday to extend an emergency curfew for up to three weeks.
The officials there went so far as to approve closing the famed Ocean Drive to all vehicular and pedestrian traffic from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. — the hours of the curfew — for four nights a week through April 12. Residents, hotel guests and employees of local businesses are exempt from the closure.
The strip, frequented by celebrities and tourists alike, was the scene of a much-criticized skirmish on Saturday night between sometimes unruly revelers who ignored social-distancing and mask guidelines aimed at curbing the coronavirus, and police officers who used pepper balls to disperse a large crowd just hours after the curfew was introduced.
The restrictions were a stunning concession to the city’s inability to control unwieldy crowds of revelers whom the city and the state of Florida have aggressively courted amid the continuing coronavirus pandemic.
has boasted about his state’s lack of pandemic restrictions, compared with other parts of the country that are controlled by Democrats. “If you look at South Florida right now, this place is booming,” Mr. DeSantis said recently. “Los Angeles isn’t booming. New York City isn’t booming.”
Miami-Dade County, which includes Miami Beach, has recently endured one of the nation’s worst coronavirus 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.
Some blamed the unusually large crowds on a spring break season supercharged by a pandemic that has limited socializing. Mr. Richardson, the city commissioner, said what Miami Beach was facing “is far greater than spring break, and that’s why we are experiencing the large number of crowds that we are.”
Ricky Arriola, another city commissioner, said at the group’s emergency meeting: “Shutting things down cannot be the way the city does business. It is embarrassing, and it just shows we don’t know what we’re doing.”