Miami-Dade County GOP Mayor Blames BLM Protests for Coronavirus Case Spike

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez responded to rapidly rising cases across South Florida by pointing to "thousands of young people" in protests as partially responsible.

The Republican mayor reacted to Florida's overall case count surging past 200,000 Sunday after 10,059 confirmed new coronavirus cases emerged in just 24 hours over the weekend. Giménez told CBS' Face the Nation Sunday that many Miami area residents "let their guard down" in terms of social distancing. But he also pointed directly toward racial injustice protests in the wake of George Floyd's May 25 death as part of the cause behind the COVID-19 case spike.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez gave reasons why state COVID cases have spiked through the roof: 'Protests had a lot to do with it'

— Wayne Dupree Media, LLC (@WayneDupreeShow) July 5, 2020

"Some of the protests that we had here, I think contributed to it," Giménez said Sunday. "We saw a rapid rise in young people in getting—being positive to COVID-19 around mid-June. And I think that that had a lot to do with probably socializing, young kids going to parties, maybe graduation parties at homes, because it's—it's been pretty locked down here for some time."

"I think, obviously, the protests had a lot to do with it. We had, you know, thousands of young people together outside, a lot of them not wearing masks. And we know that when you're—when you do that, and you are talking and you are chanting etc., that really spreads the virus," Giménez said when asked to clarify whether he is blaming Black Lives Matter or other Floyd-related protests for the Miami case increase.

Giménez and City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez both appeared on Sunday morning TV programs to detail the strict new mask orders and another shut down of Miami beaches amid the latest spike in new cases.

Giménez, however, offered one of the few public Republican Party criticisms of President Donald Trump's remark Saturday that "99 percent" of coronavirus cases are "totally harmless." The Miami-Dade County mayor rebuked the president's dubious health claim, saying he's "absolutely" incorrect in downplaying the seriousness of the pandemic.

Face the Nation host Margaret Brennan on Sunday pressed Giménez to respond to Trump's "99 percent" characterization of COVID-19—something the FDA commissioner repeatedly refused to do Sunday morning on CNN.

"No, the virus is not harmless," Giménez said. "Absolutely not. I mean that's why, if it were harmless, I wouldn't be taking the steps we're taking here in Miami-Dade."

Florida has hit record highs for new cases several times over the past 10 days, reporting more than 11,400 new cases on Saturday alone, according to The New York Times official database.

Public health officials and lawmakers in cities like Houston have outright rejected claims that Floyd or Black Lives Matter protests contributed to regional spikes in coronavirus cases. Even Suarez, who is a registered Republican, said "there is no doubt" that the re-opening of businesses was the primary factor behind the new case spike.

Newsweek reached out to the offices of Giménez and Suarez Monday morning for any additional remarks but did not hear back in time for publication.

miami-dade mayor carlos gimenez
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez responded to rapidly rising cases across South Florida by pointing to "thousands of young people" in protests as at least partially responsible. JASON KOERNER / Stringer/Getty Images