The novel coronavirus came to Miami by land, air and sea.
As a major U.S. docking point for cruise ships, PortMiami in March and April took in passengers and crew members from ships stranded at sea after they were denied port throughout South America and the Caribbean over COVID-19 concerns.
As the world shut down, Miami opened its doors.
“While we are all committed to preserving resources for our own residents, an international community like Miami would never turn our backs on people aboard ships at our shores,” Tania Leets, a spokeswoman for Jackson Health System, said at the time in a local news report. Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, for his part, said accepting cruise ships like the Coral Princess, which didn’t dock until April 4, was necessary to save lives.
Miami’s identity as an international city with a diverse population has steered its response to the pandemic, health officials say. Miami is not only home to immigrants and those from various cultures, but it’s also where many migrant workers and those who are homeless live. Add to that the area’s ranks of retirees and tourists, and it has created an environment in which hospitals need to reflect the community in order to provide good care.
“We have such a diverse population, it makes it a little difficult for us,” said June Ellis, associate chief nursing officer at Jackson Memorial Hospital, the flagship hospital of the county-run Jackson Health System.
Indeed, that openness to the world may have pushed Miami-Dade higher on the county ranking of COVID-19 infections than its size would dictate. Johns Hopkins University & Medicine’s Coronavirus Resource Center lists Miami-Dade as having the second-highest number of COVID-19 cases in the country after Los Angeles County, and as one of the top 10 counties for COVID-19 deaths.
As of Sept. 23, Miami-Dade had 166,784 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 3,127 deaths, according to Florida Health Department data.