Police in Miami Beach used pepper spray and arrested 100 people as large spring break crowds gathered despite the pandemic.
Revellers, many reportedly unmasked, became “unruly” after a teenager refused to move when police tried to clear crowds from a roadway on Friday night, according to an arrest affidavit. Police then used pepper spray. They said several people were detained while two officers were injured and taken to hospital.
The following night, on Saturday, police said 30 arrests were made. A total of 100 people were arrested over the weekend, reported CNN.
The popular spring break destination has seen packed beaches, sparking fears of coronavirus outbreaks. Florida does not permit local jurisdictions to fine people for not wearing masks.
The mayor of Miami Beach, Dan Gelber, told CNN they were “seeing too much spring break activity”, adding: “We’ve got a problem with too many people coming here to let loose.”
The Florida department of health reported 5,134 new cases on Friday, up from 4,444 on Monday.
On Sunday there were 38,222 new cases in the US, according to Johns Hopkins data, and 572 new deaths. This compares to record highs recorded in January of 300,416 and 4,470. In total, to date there have been more than 29m cases and more than 534,000 people have died.
While total new infections in the US are on a downward trajectory and vaccinations are rising, case numbers have stopped falling precipitously. On Sunday America’s top infectious disease expert, Anthony Fauci, warned: “We’re not out of the woods yet.”
Pointing to what happened last spring and summer and the situation now, he told Fox News: “If you look at those numbers, that plateau [of case numbers] bothers me and other public health officials. When you plateau at a high level, there’s enough viral activity in the community that when you pull back on things like masking and not pay attention to avoiding congregate settings, it is very risky to get another surge.”
Fauci criticised the Texas governor, Greg Abbott, for his decision to completely reopen businesses and remove a state mask mandate last week as “risky and potentially dangerous”.
The mayor of Houston, Sylvester Turner, pleaded with residents to ignore the mandate by continuing to wear masks.
“Each day, I am unfortunately reporting individuals who are passing away because of Covid-19,” he tweeted on Saturday. “Today, we are reporting 13 deaths. It is important for us to receive our Covid vaccines and continue to mask up. I strongly urge Houstonians to do so.”
Vaccinations are picking up. On Friday, the US hit 100m doses and about 35m people had been fully vaccinated – or about 13.5% of the adult population – according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
Joe Biden has pledged to vaccinate 100 million people in his first 100 days of office – a target he could be on track to meet by the end of this week.