The streets of South Beach were mostly quiet on an overcast Labor Day, capping off the holiday weekend and the unofficial end to summer on an eerie note.
One month since a COVID-19 wave that swamped Miami-Dade County hospitals started to recede, the level of virus activity has crept back down to where it was before the July spike.
Public officials and health experts, who attributed Miami’s blistering COVID summer in part due to chains of transmission ignited by gatherings around Memorial Day and June graduations, approached this holiday weekend with heightened concern and an emphasis on enforcement — beaches were open, but 10 p.m. curfews and masks were mandatory.
The curfew, mandated by county officials and enforced by local police, was not advertised to tourists flying into South Florida from across the country.
“I had no idea,” said Mike Macomber, who was staying in South Beach with his wife. “All the sudden I got the alert on my phone and was like, ‘What the heck is this?’ ”
Macomber, who traveled from Houston for his first trip to Miami, said he has enjoyed himself nonetheless, spending much of his time exercising outdoors along the beach.
His wife, Bernadette, said she had visited South Beach before the pandemic, when there weren’t police blasting curfew orders on loudspeakers at the 9 p.m. hour.
“Lincoln Road,” she said, ”just isn’t the same.”
The streets around Lincoln Road in South Beach were dotted with people who appeared to be tourists on Monday afternoon, many of them not wearing masks.
Ruben Martinez, a tourist from Dallas visiting with his husband and friend, said they were drawn to Miami Beach by cheap flights and hotels, and similarly surprised by the curfew.
“It’s a good thing they’re closing it after 10 p.m. for health reasons,” said Martinez, who was on his way to the beach. “But it’s not great vacation-wise.”
Martinez said he nonetheless coped with the restrictions by spending his weekend days jet skiing and going on a yacht. He said they didn’t plan to stay out partying past 10 p.m., but would have liked to be able to hang out at restaurants later.
Police in Miami Beach and elsewhere reported little activity over the weekend.
But on Friday evening, the Miami Beach Police Department intercepted more than a dozen individuals operating off-road vehicles “recklessly” on the MacArthur Causeway.
Police took five individuals into custody and impounded 14 ATVs and two dirt bikes, according to the Miami Beach Police Department. The other individuals operating the motor vehicles fled on foot and abandoned their vehicles as police began pulling over the riders.
“These riders were not only endangering themselves they also endangered everyone else on the roadway,” the Miami Beach Police Department tweeted at 10:23 p.m. Friday.
According to a video posted to the Miami Beach Police Department’s Twitter page, the riders taken into police custody were not wearing face masks.
On Monday, a couple strolling the beach near 16th Street — two of the only people in the area wearing masks — said they weren’t there on vacation.
They struck a different note from the tourists, saying they were concerned there would be crowds, and suspected it was the weather — not the virus — keeping them at bay on Monday afternoon.
“It took a lot to even come out,” one of them said. “We thought it would have been a lot more packed.”