Three years later, Miami-Dade ending its COVID emergency. But one more remains

SAM NAVARRO/Special for the Miami Herald

After three years, nearly $1 billion spent and more than 12,000 deaths tied to the virus, Miami-Dade County’s elected leaders are ready to declare an end to the COVID-19 state of emergency.

On Tuesday, Miami-Dade commissioners voted to end the county’s coronavirus state of emergency on March 1, which would be 1,085 days after then-Mayor Carlos Gimenez first declared it on March 11, 2020.

The current mayor, Daniella Levine Cava, said the state of emergency she renews every seven days could end earlier now that Miami-Dade has filed for its final federal COVID expense reimbursement.

“Listen, I’m very happy to end these emergencies,” Levine Cava said. “So as soon we’re able to, we will do so.”

READ MORE: Florida COVID weekly update: State sees decrease in new cases, increase in deaths

Even without the COVID decree, Miami-Dade would still be under a state of emergency from the 2021 collapse of the Champlain Towers South condo complex.

With the Federal Emergency Management Agency picking up most of Miami-Dade’s response costs, Levine Cava kept the original June 24, 2021, declaration in place after county contractors cleared the collapse site and trucked debris to an industrial park near Miami International Airport for a debris examination process that’s ongoing under the county police department’s supervision.

Levine Cava said that emergency declaration will likely remain in place for the next two months as Miami-Dade wraps up the process, with debris shipped to a landfill in Central Florida. Miami-Dade is expecting Washington to cover most of the costs for that process through a mix of FEMA and other federal funds, said David Clodfelter, the county’s budget director.

He told commissioners that the last of Miami-Dade’s reimbursable COVID expenses ended last week when the county’s homeless agency closed the purchase of a residential facility.

The county had been renting the building since the start of the pandemic to provide housing for elderly residents facing homelessness. FEMA agreed to cover the remaining rental costs until Miami-Dade purchased the building, Clodfelter said.

Gov. Ron DeSantis ended Florida’s statewide COVID emergency in June 2021, and President Joe Biden said he’ll end the national health emergency declaration on May 11. Citing the looming end of the national COVID health emergency, Commissioner René Garcia on Tuesday pressed for Miami-Dade to follow suit.

Commissioners approved the March 1 end to the emergency as part of a vote to authorize another $67 million in COVID spending from the first half of 2022, increasing Miami-Dade’s total tab on air filters, masks, senior meals, testing, hotel stays and other emergency expenditures since 2020 to $868 million, according to a county summary.

“It’s time,” Garcia said. “I don’t see what benefit there is continuing an emergency that really doesn’t exist anymore.”