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Miami Beach Extends Emergency Curfew as Spring Breakers Overwhelm City

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  • Miami Beach extended its 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew until April 12 in an effort to fight off an influx of spring break crowds.
  • The curfew was initially put in place for 72 hours starting Sunday, but it was expanded after recent crowds packed entire streets, started fights, destroyed property, and in at least one instance, fired shots into the air, prompting police in riot gear to break out pepper spray.
  • The curfew represents a major concession for state and local leaders, who encouraged people to visit despite rising COVID-19 cases in the state and the Miami-beach area specifically, which was recently one of the worst-hit places in the country.

Miami Beach’s Party Problem

Officials in Miami Beach moved Sunday to extend a curfew in parts of the city for at least three weeks in an effort to crack down on spring breakers.

Over the last several weeks, the city has been packed with partiers ignoring social distancing and masking guidelines. In fact, officials have said that this year, there have been more visitors and more disruptions than in previous years despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Police have reported fights breaking out, property destruction, and several stampedes, including one that was started after someone fired gunshots into the air. According to the Miami Beach Police Department, since early February, about 1,000 arrests have been made and 80 firearms have been seized.

Notably, around 51% of arrests involved non-Florida residents, and police in neighboring cities have sent officers to help crowd management.

The situation escalated last week and culminated heading into the weekend. Videos showed thousands of people openly drinking, dancing, and partying in the streets, shoulder-to-shoulder on the city’s iconic Ocean Drive.

The city imposed a state of emergency and an 8 p.m. curfew in the entertainment district Saturday night, but that failed to stop the partiers. Police then responded by sending in SWAT teams and personnel from multiple law enforcement agencies in riot gear, who broke up crowds with pepper balls.

The move has drawn criticism, especially from Black activists and advocacy groups in the city, who claimed many of the people they dispersed were Black. City officials have argued they were targeting conduct, not groups of people, and that police had fired the pepper balls after a group rushed them.

Curfew Extended

On Sunday, Miami Beach authorities moved to extend the curfew — which was initially set for 72 hours — until April 12, when spring break usually ends. The leaders also voted to extend the state of emergency until at least Monday evening. 

Under the current rules, Ocean Drive will be closed to all vehicle and pedestrian traffic from 8 p.m. until 6 a.m. four nights a week, with exceptions for residents, hotel visitors, and employees in the area. Bridges and other main causeways into the city will also be blocked.

Many have said the move marks a major concession for Miami Beach and Florida at large, where both state and city leaders have been heavily encouraging tourists to come. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has recently bragged about how open the state is in an attempt to bring more tourists to Florida’s traditional spring break hot spots.

These efforts have continued despite the fact that Miami-Dade County, which houses Miami Beach, has recently seen one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the country. Florida — which currently ranks in the top 10 states for highest cases per capita and has seen increases in the last few weeks — is also believed to be the state with the largest concentration of the highly contagious and possibly more lethal U.K. strain.

In addition to worries about continued spikes in Florida as a result of the influx of spring breakers, experts have also expressed concern that the visitors will bring back new cases — and most alarming, new strains — to their home states when they return.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (The Associated Press)

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U.S. Pledges To Donate 500 Million More Vaccines Globally

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The announcement comes as wealthy nations face pressure to help lower-income countries deal with the pandemic and as American vaccine makers face calls to share their technology.


Biden Promises More Vaccines

President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that the U.S. will purchase 500 million doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for countries in need, bringing the total number of U.S. vaccine donations to more than 1.1 billion.

Biden’s pledge, which was made at a virtual COVID-19 summit, comes as world leaders and organizations have criticized wealthy nations for not doing enough to help lower-income countries deal with the pandemic. Many have also slammed countries like the U.S. for moving forward with plans for booster shots while so much of the world remains unvaccinated.

According to the University of Oxford’s Our World in Data project, of the six billion shots administered globally, nearly 80% percent have been given in high- and upper-middle-income countries compared to just 0.5% in low-income countries.

While several wealthy nations begin to give booster shots, just 2% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose.

Pressure Grows for American Companies to Share Vaccine Technology

It’s not just wealthy countries and their leaders that are being met with criticism over the massive vaccination gap. There is also a lot of growing pressure on American drug companies to share their formulas with manufacturers in poor nations that need more doses.

Senior officials told The New York Times that the Biden administration privately asked Pfizer and Moderna to engage in joint ventures where they license their technology to contract manufacturers in an effort to provide vaccines to low- and middle-income nations.

While those conversations reportedly prompted Pfizer to sell the U.S. the 500 million doses announced this Wednesday at a not-for-profit price, the company still refused to license its technology.

Meanwhile, the alleged discussions appear to have had no impact at all on Moderna. 

Many have argued the Moderna has even more of an obligation to share its technology given that it was developed in part by the National Institutes of Health. On top of that, the company accepted an additional $2.5 billion in taxpayer money as part of Operation Warp Speed.

In a statement to The Times on Tuesday, a Moderna spokeswoman said that the company had agreed not to enforce its COVID-related patents and was “willing to license our intellectual property for Covid-19 vaccines to others for the post pandemic period.”

But experts say that vaccine technology is needed now, not when the pandemic is over. 

Many have argued that Biden should put more pressure on the companies to share their intellectual property, including some legal experts who said he could compel them to do so using the Defense Production Act, which gives the president broad emergency powers.

Administration officials, however, have argued that forcing the companies to share the information is more complicated, and any efforts to do so would result in legal battles that will ultimately be counterproductive. 

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Wall Street Journal)

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Texas Doctor Says He Violated Abortion Law, Opening Matter Up for Litigation

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Under the state’s new law, any citizen could sue the doctor, which would make the matter the first known test case of the restrictive policy.


Dr. Braid’s Op-Ed

A Texas doctor revealed in an op-ed published in The Washington Post Saturday that he performed an abortion in violation of the state’s law that bans the procedure after six weeks, before most people know they are pregnant.

The law, which is the most restrictive in the country and does not have exceptions for rape and incest, also allows civilians to sue anyone who helps someone receive an abortion after six weeks.

In the op-ed, Dr. Alan Braid, who has been practicing as an OB/GYN in Texas for 45 years, said that just days after the law took effect, he gave an abortion to a woman who was still in her first trimester but already beyond the state’s new limit.

“I acted because I had a duty of care to this patient, as I do for all patients, and because she has a fundamental right to receive this care,” he wrote. “I fully understood that there could be legal consequences — but I wanted to make sure that Texas didn’t get away with its bid to prevent this blatantly unconstitutional law from being tested.”

Braid went on to say that he understands he is taking a personal risk but that he believes it is worth it.

“I have daughters, granddaughters and nieces,” he concluded. “I believe abortion is an essential part of health care. I have spent the past 50 years treating and helping patients. I can’t just sit back and watch us return to 1972.”

Potential Litigation

If someone does opt to sue Braid over this matter, he could potentially be the state’s first test case in playing out the legal process. However, it is unclear if anti-abortion groups will follow through, despite their threats to enforce the law.

A spokesperson for Texas Right to Life, which set up a website to report people suspected of violating the ban, told reporters this weekend that it is looking into Braid’s claims but added, “It definitely seems like a legal stunt and we are looking into whether it is more than that.”

Even if abortion opponents hold off on Braid’s case, there are other legal challenges to the Texas law.

Shortly after the policy took effect, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit attempting to stop it. Last week, the department filed an emergency motion asking a federal judge in the state to temporarily block the ban while that legal battle plays out, with a hearing for that motion set for Oct. 1.

Regardless of what side the federal judge rules for, the other is all but ensured to sue, and that fight could take the question to the Supreme Court in a matter of months.

See what others are saying: (NPR) (The Texas Tribune) (The Wall Street Journal)

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Pfizer Says Low Dose of COVID-19 Vaccine Is Safe and Effective in Kids 5 to 11

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Pfizer Says Kids’ Vaccine Works

Pfizer announced Monday morning that its joint COVID-19 vaccine with BioNTech is safe and effective in kids ages 5 to 11.

While Pfizer’s vaccine candidate for younger children is the same version the FDA has already approved for people 12 and older, the children’s dose is only one-third of the amount given to adults and teens. Still, Pfizer said the antibody response they’ve seen in kids has been comparable to the response seen in older participants.

Similarly, the company said side effects in children have been similar to those witnessed in adults. 

Pfizer said it expects to finish submitting data, which still needs to be peer-reviewed and then published, to the FDA by the end of the month. From there, the agency will ensure that Pfizer’s findings are accurate and that the vaccine will be able to elicit a strong immune response in kids at its current one-third dosage. 

That process could take weeks or even all of October, but it does open the possibility that the vaccine candidate could be approved around Halloween.

Overeager Parents

While experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have called Pfizer’s announcement largely predictable, they’ve also urged people to let the research run its course. 

With cases among children skyrocketing in recent months, some parents have begun urging pediatricians to give their children the jab early. Those kinds of requests are likely to increase with Pfizer’s announcement; however, officials have warned parents about acting too quickly.

“No one should really be freelancing — they should wait for the appropriate approval and recommendations to decide how best to manage their own children’s circumstances,” Bill Gruber, Pfizer’s senior vice president of vaccine clinical research and development, said according to The Washington Post. 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (Axios)

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