Miami Beach hospitality sector gets COVID contact tracers

Hotels, restaurants and cultural institutions in Miami Beach will now have a dedicated team of contact tracers available to investigate new cases of COVID-19 in the city’s hospitality sector.

The seven-person “strike team” of Florida Department of Health contact tracers was announced Tuesday as part of the city’s new Race to Trace program, funded by a $455,000 grant by The Rockefeller Foundation.

The contact tracers, who work for the state, will be assigned to investigate new coronavirus cases among employees at participating Miami Beach businesses. They will contact employees who test positive for the novel coronavirus and trace their recent contacts to curb the spread of the virus among other employees or visitors.

“This is a sole responsibility, not an added responsibility — they are specifically only assigned to help Miami Beach hotels, restaurants, and arts and cultural institutions,” a Miami Beach spokeswoman said in a statement. “The contact tracers will continue to work for and report to the Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade County, and the city will continue weekly coordination calls with the team.”

About $255,000 of the Rockefeller grant will go toward contact tracing. The other $200,000 will fund a public relations program to promote COVID safety efforts in the city’s hotels and restaurants, according to an October memo from City Manager Jimmy Morales.

“The goal is to help our businesses reopen and stay open through the coming months,” Morales wrote.

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber, who has regularly criticized the state’s contact-tracing program, said in a statement that the increased tracing will help keep hospitality workers and tourists safe.

“Our hospitality industry has gamely addressed these challenges but needs tools better suited to its unique profile,” he said. “This partnership will elevate our contact tracing efforts to give us the best opportunity to cabin this virus and provide a safer environment for our guests and workers.”

Businesses interested in taking part in the program may contact the resource team by calling 786-750-1077 or sending an email to [email protected]

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Martin Vassolo covers the politics and government of Miami Beach for the Miami Herald. He began working for the Herald in January 2018 after attending the University of Florida, where he served as the editor-in-chief of The Independent Florida Alligator. Previously, he was a general assignment reporter on the Herald’s metro desk and a political reporting intern.