Coronavirus case linked to Winter Party Festival in Miami Beach
by Martin Vassolo

Even when some of Miami’s biggest shows went down like flies because of coronavirus fears, one party in Miami Beach went on: the
Winter Party Festival, which has been a Beach fixture since 1994.

During the welcome reception for the Winter Party Festival on March 4, a festival representative and Mayor Dan Gelber demonstrated a
hands-free handshake that attendees should use. It involved jazz hands. Organizers rolled out a hygiene policy and said they gave out
10,000 bottles of hand sanitizer.

Now, after the week-long festival was held as scheduled, one of its attendees
has tested positive for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel

The positive case was announced late Sunday by Rea Carey, the executive
director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, which organized the festival.

In a statement on the Winter Party Festival’s official Instagram account, Carey said the attendee did not experience symptoms during
Winter Party Festival and that it is unclear if the person contracted the virus at the festival.

“I am writing to let you know that on Saturday night (the 14th), I was informed that one of our Winter Party Festival (WPF) guests has tested
positive for COVID-19 this last week,” Carey wrote.

“We are grateful to them for alerting us, particularly given that they were not experiencing symptoms during WPF. While we know there are
many places people could have been exposed before and after Winter Party as this virus has developed, we wanted to make sure you
have this information as soon as possible. The health and safety of anyone who participates in any Task Force event is of great
importance to us.”

The festival was held at venues across the city, including Exchange Miami, Treehouse, and at an event installation on the sands of South
Beach. Events also took place in Wynwood and Wilton Manors in Broward County.

Organizers had put out fliers encouraging attendees to wash their hands — especially after coming into contact with others.

“Don’t go back to the dance floor all nasty. Who wants to ruin their vibe by getting sick,” reads a flier for the festival. “Regular
handwashing, particularly before and after certain activities (don’t make us list them here), is one of the best ways to remove germs,
avoid getting sick and prevent the spread of germs to others.”

At the time of the festival’s start, Miami Beach city leaders had communicated
to residents and visitors that the city remained “open for business” despite the
cancellation of Ultra Music Festival, Calle Ocho Festival, and HistoryMiami
Museum’s Map Fair in Miami.

“Until further notice, we’re taking all precautions but we’re open
for business,” Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales said on
March 5. “I know we’re already getting inquiries in light of Ultra.”

The succession of cancellations jolted South Florida at a time
when the total death toll due to COVID-19 was 16 and Florida’s
Department of Health announced the discovery of the first two
cases in South Florida. The number of cases in Broward County
alone, now considered a coronavirus cluster, had ballooned to
36 as of Sunday evening.

On Sunday alone, Miami-Dade County announced a rule that
will force bars, restaurants and nightclubs to close at 11 p.m.
starting Monday and halve capacity at those businesses and
at theaters. The county-wide order followed announcements
earlier in the day from Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale to
close stretches of public beach to crack down on large spring
break gatherings.

“Given what we knew at the time about the virus prior to WPF
and working with local Miami Beach officials, we took steps to
ensure the safety of attendees,” Carey’s statement reads. “The
educational posters throughout WPF venues and 10,000 hand
sanitizers we distributed over the weekend were both appreciated
and utilized by attendees.”

Carey advised attendees to continue monitoring their health and
if they were to test positive, that they could email organizers.

“Information and circumstances have changed rapidly since WPF,”
the statement reads. “We continue to encourage all WPF guests to
monitor their health, practice social distancing, wash hands with
soap, use hand sanitizer and contact their doctor if they think they
are exhibiting symptoms. If you test positive for COVID-19, please
contact those you were in direct contact with so they can take steps
to monitor their health and speak with their doctors.”

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