Cities Respond

Miami mayor with COVID-19 shows virtually no symptoms — a case for social distancing

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez has COVID-19, though you wouldn’t know it if you were sitting next to him.

Of course, Miamians won’t be seeing him out and about at the moment — the mayor is in isolation in his Coconut Grove home after learning a Brazilian government official who had been in the mayor’s vicinity last week tested positive. Miami-Dade’s health department tested Suarez on Thursday before the mayor began his self-quarantine. On Friday, he publicly shared he was infected with the virus. He was the first U.S. mayor to test positive, and the second confirmed case in Miami-Dade County.

So far, he’s feeling okay.

“Mild to almost no symptoms right now,” said Suarez on a Sunday morning video he posted on social media. The mayor has been sharing his condition, his temperature and his thoughts in a daily video journal. He’s also been updating the health department, who’s monitoring for symptoms each day. Buried in hundreds of unread text messages are check-ins from public health professionals.

For now, COVID-19 has proven a mild illness for the 42-year-old who is otherwise in good health, with no underlying health conditions and a typical immune system. He took a few Tylenols for mild aches Saturday. No fever, according to readings from two thermometers he uses. Little bit of a runny nose.

“I’m very fortunate that I seem to be, for the moment, in that 80% category who’s experience mild to no symptoms,” he said.

Suarez is not among the most at-risk of suffering severe effects of COVID-19, such as the elderly and people with compromised immune systems. The mayor and his lack of symptoms could be seen as a strong argument for the kind of social distancing — keeping at least six feet way from other and generally avoiding large gatherings of people — being widely recommended by public health officials in order to keep the virus from spreading. The idea, amplified in recent days from Washington, D.C. to City Hall, is for the wider population to avoid becoming unwitting carriers of a virus that can cause serious illness and death for the most vulnerable.

Gov. Ron DeSantis magnified the issue over the weekend when he acknowledged that Florida is experiencing “community spread” of coronavirus, or the transmitting of the virus among those who aren’t sure how or where they got infected. As of the Sunday afternoon, the state tally for confirmed cases stood at 100, with three deaths. A fourth Floridian died from COVID-19, but while in California.

Even though Suarez has the virus and could spread it around through social contact, he wouldn’t know he had it if it weren’t the publicized positive test of Fabio Wajngarten, press secretary to Brazilian President Jair Boslonaro. Wajngarten and Suarez were all in the same room on two occasions on March 9.

“My suspicion is that a lot of people have this and they don’t even know it,” he told the Miami Herald.

Several other government officials who came into close contact with Suarez tested negative, including all five commissioners and top administrators who were in close contact with the mayor last week, particularly at a City Commission meeting Thursday. Still, they all remain in quarantine as a precaution in case they show symptoms in the coming days.

Only about one week ago, the messages from multiple municipal governments were conflicting — some large-scale events were canceled, but not all. When Suarez and Miami Commissioner Joe Carollo announced the cancellations of Ultra Music Festival and the Calle Ocho Festival, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said the county Youth Fair would go on. Miami Beach leaders said the tourist destination would remain open for business for Spring Break.

There was less talk of social distancing. With no local COVID-19 cases, local leaders across the county were inconsistent when it came to whether or not large gatherings should still be allowed. One constant: Mitigating any potential threat to seniors, who are among the most vulnerable to the worst effects of the virus.

The situation changed rapidly after emergency declarations at the state and county levels, setting off a wave of cancellations and a heightened concern for the spread of the coronavirus. Eventually, instructions to wash hands and sanitize frequently were bolstered by advice to keep six feet distance and stay away from crowds.

You can help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses like 2019 novel coronavirus. Follow these simple daily precautions. BY CDC
By Sunday, as state health officials confirmed more cases in South Florida, the messages from various local governments aligned more closely. Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale used emergency powers to restrict beach access and limit business hours to prevent Spring Break from becoming a “petri dish for a very dangerous virus,” in the words of Beach Mayor Dan Gelber.

Framing the shifts in tone were medical workers calling for the delivery of more tests to meet demand, which would help the state truly understand how many Floridians are infected.

Among the recent group of test recipients: Gimemez, who shook hands with members of the Brazilian delegation. He tested negative last week. Like several Miami city administrators who were in close contact with Suarez but tested negative, Gimenez remains in quarantine as a precaution.

On Sunday, in a Skype interview from his home with WPLG Local 10, the county mayor shared a new refrain, a stark departure from previous statements: Act as if everyone has the infection. Personal responsibility, he said, can beat back the spread of COVID-19.

“If we all go about our business assuming that everybody is infected and then we take the proper measures, then that’s the best way to stop this virus,” he said. “So, keep social distancing. We don’t need to be shaking hands. We don’t need to be kissing anybody. Try to keep about six feet away. Whenever you touch a smooth surface, wash your hands. Whenever you touch your face, wash your hands.”

Suarez, speaking over the phone from his home, echoed Gimenez. He said if he hadn’t been tested, he wouldn’t think he had anything.

“I would not have thought I was sick,” Suarez said.

In quarantine, the mayor has remained glued to his phone, speaking with City Manager Art Noriega, his wife, the media and others checking in on him. His young son and daughter, who are staying with their mother and extended family, have spoken with Suarez via FaceTime.

He’s focused on monitoring his condition and working with the health department to figure out when he can emerge from quarantine. Officials have told him he could be tested twice again after not showing any symptoms for at least a day.

“They have indicated that you have to test negative twice in a 24- to 48-hour period,” he said.

Past that, the politician might have to think about how to return to the daily functions of a city mayor in a landscape that will be altered for some unknown amount of time — one without community meetings and visits to senior centers, one without speaking engagements and photo opps where hands rest on shoulders. For some time, he’ll have to have pull back on his signature greeting — a clasped hand and half-hug. He acknowledged that for at least a little while, he’ll join the mass of Miamians having to adjust to social protocols.

“I haven’t given it that much thought,” he said. “We’re kind in a little bit of a new world.”

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Savannah mayor prepares citizens for possible local state of emergency

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson posted a video on his Facebook page on the morning of Saturday, March 14, alerting viewers about what to expect if Savannah’s government declares a local state of emergency.

The following is a selection of quotes from Johnson’s statements:

“Right now the city is operating normally.”

“This morning, Governor Brian Kemp declared a public health emergency for our state, the first ever in Georgia’s history. We are living in some extraordinary times. Last night the President of the United States declared a national state of emergency. We have not declared a local state of emergency — yet.”

“If we were to put one in place, it would allow the city to initiate the appropriate emergency response and recovery efforts, and apply any necessary emergency plans. There is no reason to panic, but you should be taking this seriously.”

“This country is making an effort to limit big crowds, and so is our city. The St. Patrick’s Day Festival and Parade aren’t happening this weekend.”

“Everyone, but especially those at higher risk, should be practicing good hygiene, avoiding high-density gatherings with close contact.”

“Rest assured, we will be open with you, we will be transparent with you, we will tell you the truth as we know it, and we will keep you engaged as we follow this constantly evolving situation. Savannah’s been here since 1733. We’ve seen the best of times and we’ve seen the worst of times. We’ve seen evolving times, and we’ve seen strange and extraordinary times, but Savannah has gotten through it when we’ve gotten through it together. We will get through this, together. God bless, God bless Savannah.”

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West Hollywood's Emergency Action Proposals

Infographics from Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson

Messaging to Constituents

CDC Communications Resources

Infographic - Keeping workplaces safe

Los Angeles COVID-19 Resource Page

LA has done a great job creating a fast response page for COVID-19 resources. Check out their work at

Council Member Derek Green's Facebook Live Message to Philadelphians

Watch here:

Burlington, NC Mayor Ian Baltutis gives a daily update

Watch the video here:

National COVID Messaging Document

How Progressives Should Talk About COVID-19

Talking About COVID-19: A Call for Racial, Economic, and Health Equity

Little Rock Community Resource Page

Update Video from Mayor Ian and Dr. Kristina Baltutis

Good afternoon Burlington. First off, thank you to all of our churches and church leaders who have transitioned their congregations to remote or virtual services. By not gathering in large numbers you are helping to save lives.We have our 2nd confirmed case in Alamance County and the individual has not travel history which confirms that we have community spread here. Treat every daily interaction for the risk of infection that it poses. And keep washing your hands often especially if you have touched public surfaces, takeout food containers, money, buttons, gas pumps, etc.Today I’m mainly going to address unemployment and income challenges facing our community. Gov. Cooper has expanded who is eligible to claim unemployment currently and you can find out more specifics here: City of Burlington has centralized resources for businesses at our Economic Development page: recognize that many people are currently or will soon experience economic hardship. We as a city along with our county, state, and federal partners are working on solutions to help everyone weather these difficult times. If you need help please dial 2-1-1. For COVID-19 questions please contact our hotline at 336-290-0361. Pasty, be a hero, stay home, and save lives! Thank you

Posted by Mayor Ian Baltutis on Sunday, March 22, 2020

Undocumented Immigrants - How To Talk to Your Loved Ones about COVID-19

Mayors Against Illegal Guns -- Be Smart Safety for Kids

Domestic Violence Hotlines

If you are a victim of domestic violence, The National Domestic Violence Hotlineallows you to speak confidentially with trained advocates online or by the phone, which they recommend for those who think their online activity is being monitored by their abuser (800-799-7233). They can help survivors develop a plan to achieve safety for themselves and their children.

Safe Horizon’s hotline offers crisis counseling, safety planning, and assistance finding shelters 1(800) 621-HOPE (4673). It also has a chat feature where you can reach out for help from a computer or phone confidentially.

Survivors can also call the New York City Anti-Violence Project’s 24/7 English/Spanish hotline at 212-714-1141 and get support. If calling is not safe but email is possible, make a report at and leave safe contact information, and someone will reach out.

Suicide Lifeline: If you or someone you know may be struggling with suicidal thoughts you can call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) any time of day or night or chat online.

Crisis Text Line provides free, 24/7, confidential support via text message to people in crisis when they dial 741741.

For people who identify as LGBTQ, if you or someone you know is feeling hopeless or suicidal, you can also contact The Trevor Project’s TrevorLifeline 24/7/365 at 1-866-488-7386.

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Resources for Immigrant Community during COVID-19