Miami Beach commissioner contracts COVID-19, and two county candidates pause events

Martin Vassolo, Douglas Hanks
·3 min read

Miami Beach Commissioner David Richardson said Sunday that he has tested positive for COVID-19.

The announcement prompted Miami-Dade County Commissioners Daniella Levine Cava and Eileen Higgins — who appeared with Richardson at a campaign event Friday in South Beach — to stop campaigning for the day and get tested at the Hard Rock Stadium site in Miami Gardens.

Levine Cava is running for county mayor and Higgins is running for reelection to the commission. Both received initial negative tests Sunday at the Hard Rock Stadium testing site, and will stay isolated until the more reliable “PCR” tests come back Tuesday, their campaigns said.

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber, who attended Friday’s event, said he will get tested Monday. Christian Ulvert, campaign consultant to Levine Cava and Higgins, also attended the event and said he has since tested negative for the coronavirus.

Miami Beach Commissioner David Richardson, middle, has tested positive for COVID-19. His announcement prompted Miami-Dade Commissioners Daniella Levine Cava, right, and Eileen Higgins to get tested for the coronavirus. Levine Cava, a mayoral candidate, and Higgins, who is up for reelection to the commission, attended a South Beach campaign event Friday with Richardson.
Miami Beach Commissioner David Richardson, middle, has tested positive for COVID-19. His announcement prompted Miami-Dade Commissioners Daniella Levine Cava, right, and Eileen Higgins to get tested for the coronavirus. Levine Cava, a mayoral candidate, and Higgins, who is up for reelection to the commission, attended a South Beach campaign event Friday with Richardson.

“I have already reached out to the few people who were around me in the past few days without a mask to encourage them to get tested as soon as possible, and I will continue to work with professionals on contact tracing,” Richardson said in a statement Sunday.

Everyone who attended Friday’s event at the Ocean Drive drag bar Palace wore masks. Richardson said he began feeling “mild” symptoms on Saturday evening, hours after hosting a food distribution event at Collins Park.

Saturday’s no-contact, drive-through event — at 2100 Collins Ave. — was part of the weekly food distributions Richardson has organized throughout the pandemic. All volunteers were wearing masks and gloves, he said, adding that he had no contact with attendees or their food.

“There was no contact with the participants in their cars as the windows were up,” he said. “Also, since I am busy managing the events I don’t touch the food that is placed in cars.”

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After testing positive Sunday morning, Richardson said he began his quarantine and feels only minor symptoms.

Richardson said his doctor told him he “most likely” contracted the virus when he visited a restaurant Thursday with a friend to grab a drink. He sat inside the restaurant for about an hour. His friend tested negative, he said.

On Monday, Richardson offered this advice via text: “eat outdoors — always.”

The news from the former Democratic lawmaker scrambled campaign plans for Levine Cava, the party-backed candidate for Miami-Dade mayor.

Ulvert said she dropped plans to appear at early voting sites Sunday afternoon. Instead, she was heading for the COVID testing site at the stadium. Levine Cava and Higgins had planned to go to the Miami Beach Convention Center to get tested, but then discovered it was closed. “They’ve been in line for the last 30 minutes” at Hard Rock, Ulvert said. Before 6 p.m., Ulvert said the results were back and both candidates tested negative.

He said Higgins, running for reeelection as the county’s District 5 commissioner, and Levine Cava, currently the District 8 commissioner, aren’t experiencing symptoms. He issued statements for both candidates say they would “not have any in-person campaign stops tomorrow” as they await results from PCR diagnostic tests. That type of test is considered more reliable than the rapid tests that can quickly flag someone with COVID but aren’t as good at concluding someone doesn’t have the virus.

In his statement, Richardson said he has “been very diligent about wearing my mask, and there are very few instances where I have been without a mask.”

He said he is working with the city of Miami Beach and the Florida Department of Health in contact-tracing efforts.

“My primary concern at this point is to notify anyone who may have been in contact with me so they can take the proper precautions for their own health,” he said.

An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect location for Saturday’s food distribution in Miami Beach. It was held at Collins Park