MIAMI (CBSMiami) – 2020 is probably the year you would want to forget.
Locally, the coronavirus pandemic seemingly wove its way into almost every story that came our way.
Was it a sign of things to come that 2020 would be a very different kind of year? An earthquake in January centered in the Caribbean was felt in Miami. But 2020 quickly got worse Yes, Super Bowl big money rolled into town but in March the story of the year hit and it was not a hurricane or earthquake, it was the pandemic.
“We have decided to postpone Ultra Music Festival and not approve the special event for Calle Ocho,” Miami Mayor Francis Suarez announced in early March.
The pandemic rolled through South Florida hitting nursing homes hard and deaths began to mount. City, county, and state governments scrambled, hospitals filled, and concerned citizenry started wearing masks.
The City of Miami issued a stay at home order, school kids in Broward and Miami-Dade wrestled with learning from home as schools shut down, businesses sent workers home, and working from home became “the new normal.”
Among the hardest-hit businesses were restaurants, bars, and movie theaters which all were forced to shut down. Some restaurants survived adapting to take out orders and delivery.
Beaches were closed as COVID struck the very heart of the South Florida economy – tourism.
That was the great debate, public health safety versus keeping the tourism economy viable.
The cruise ship industry tanked. Concerns about flying saw many U.S. airlines with mostly empty flights. With flights to and from Europe and South America suspended, hotel occupancy rates hit all-time lows.
“What it reflects is the hotel industry in Miami-Cade County is in a cataclysmic state,“ said Scott Berman who tracks South Florida tourism trends for PricewaterhouseCoopers.
In addition to Calle Ocho and the Ultra Music Festival, the Coconut Grove Art Show, Miami International Boat Show, and the South Beach Wine and Food Festival were also canceled, huge revenue generators gone.
Stores saw almost panic buying of food and especially cleaning supplies including paper towels and toilet paper. Gun shops did a brisk business and fear of the pandemic and social unrest weighed heavily.
In the midst of the pandemic during the run-up to the elections, Republicans went hard after Democratic candidates hanging their hat on fears of Socialism and Communism. That resonated with Cuban and Venezuelan voters. The end result was that Miami-Dade voters sent two Democratic members of Congress to the sidelines. Former Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Maria Elvira Salazar, both Republicans, now represent South Florida in Congress.
In Broward County, Sheriff Gregory Tony who was appointed to replace Sheriff Scott Israel in the wake of the Parkland tragedy faced a challenge from the man he replaced. Tony, it was revealed, had killed a man while a teenager. In the end, Tony held onto the office.
In a first for Miami-Dade, commissioner Daniela Levine Cava became the county’s first female mayor.
“I am honored to stand before you as the first female mayor of Miami-Dade County,” she proclaimed during her victory speech.
Speaking of major milestones for women, Kim Ng became the first woman to ever head a Major League Baseball franchise when she made General Manager of the Miami Marlins. Another glass ceiling was broken when Miami Dade College trustees selected Madeline Pumariega as the college’s fifth and first female president.
In the midst of the nationwide pandemic, George Floyd was killed in a confrontation with Minneapolis police officers. That triggered protests across the country and South Florida not exempt. On May 30th in downtown Miami, peaceful protests morphed into an ugly scene outside the Miami Police Department, police cars were torched and it later spilled over into the Bayside Marketplace. Unrest in Fort Lauderdale led to a standoff between police and demonstrators.
2020 was the year of the sewage break in Fort Lauderdale. They became regular occurrences, aging sewer lines were the culprit with a $1.4 billion dollar investment need to make permanent repairs.
As the holidays for all faiths begin and the new year approaches, the hope is that there is a much better world for all of us in 2021.