MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Amid growing concerns about the coronavirus, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez flew to Washington, D.C. early Wednesday for a series of meetings with top officials.
CBS4 caught up with Gimenez as he was leaving from Miami International Airport. He was scheduled to meet with cruise industry representatives at 11:30 a.m. and then with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin at 2 p.m. and with the Florida congressional delegation at 4:30 p.m.
On Tuesday, Gimenez expressed concerns about the economic impact.
“Both the airport and seaport are responsible for about 5,000 to 6,000 jobs in our community. They are vitally important. They are the number one and number two economic generators here in Miami-Dade County,” he said.
Miami International Airport is seeing a decrease in passengers this month and airlines are cutting back flights, some by 10 to 12 percent.
An airport spokesman said since the middle of February there has an average reduction in the number of passengers of 10 percent. He added that was significantly less than other airports because Miami International does not have a direct route to Asian markets.
Business operators at the airport have been hard hit, retail sales are down 20 percent and restaurant revenues down 12 percent.
Coronavirus concerns have also taken a toll of restaurants in midtown Miami, with business owners there telling CBS4’s Peter D’Oench that there has been a significant drop in business.
Meanwhile, at the airport, passengers told D’Oench they are concerned but not alarmed.
“I normally wash my hands and am hygienic and now I use hand sanitizer more,” said Allison Zentz of Fort Worth, Texas.
“I would say I am concerned. I am more aware of the things I am doing and I am not freaking out,” said Gabby Wilkinson, also from Fort Worth.
“I mean, I am scared but I am taking precautions,” said Tamara Heath of Indianapolis.
“I am not overreacting. I am taking precautions and I especially am using hand sanitizers but you have to take trips and live life,” said Anastasia Acton from Indianapolis.
Meanwhile, Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said on Tuesday “There is not a single confirmed case or presumptive case impacting students or employees in the school district.”
He said Mayor Gimenez has assured him the county is ready to help should there be serious problems.
“He has offered if we need additional staff and should we need a sanitation SWAT team or equipment or supplies the county is ready to assist.”
He also said all school and after school activities are continuing but some travel is canceled.
“All out of country field trips are canceled until further notice,” he said. “An immediate moratorium has been placed on all out of state air travel.”
He also said all students and parents who have returned from high-warning level countries or a cruise who have exhibited symptoms of the coronavirus should contact the Florida Health Department.
Students who are sick are being told to stay home even if they think it is the common cold or the flu.
“Stay home. This is not the time to strive for perfect attendance,” said Carvalho.
All perfect attendance incentives and recognitions for students have been suspended for the remainder of the academic year.
The school district will partially activate its emergency command center starting Wednesday morning.
It has also opened a coronavirus hotline starting Wednesday morning. The number is 305-995-3000.
In addition, MDCPS has launched a dedicated website for the most up-to-date information regarding schools and the coronavirus. It can be found at COVID19.DADESCHOOLS.NET
There is also a new website for its Instructional Continuity Plan for Emergency Schools Closures of District Schools
This is where online learning would continue should it be necessary to close a classroom, a school or a group of schools, but again, all schools remain open at this time.
School principals are being told to intensify the cleaning of schools and buses and promote personal hygiene.
Students and staff at schools that serve as polling sites for the March 17 primary election will be separated from voters. Once the polling stations close, the voting areas will be cleaned and sanitized.
The District is also prepared to distribute meals to students in schools that may close. In addition, it has petitioned for the relaxation of federal requirements governing the School Lunch Program to further expedite the provision of meals to those impacted.
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