CORAL GABLES, FLA. (WSVN) - City of Miami leaders have decided to cancel Calle Ocho and Ultra Music Festival for 2020 as the concern over preventing the spread of the coronavirus grows.
The announcement of postponing the events until next year was made in a meeting held on Friday morning.
“This has been a very, very difficult decision that we have made,” said Miami District 3 Commissioner Joe Carollo.
The special events permit for Calle Ocho has been denied by the city for this year’s planned event.
City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said it is a postponement until the coronavirus threat subsides.
“As COVID-19 coronavirus cases continue to rise, public gatherings can pose a risk by increasing person-to-person contact, often putting groups in close proximity to one another,” said Suarez. “We are obtaining this guidance from the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], which defines mass gatherings as those with 25,000 people or more.”
Calle Ocho’s cancellation comes two days after reports were made that Ultra Music Festival was postponed for this year.
The electronic music showcase was originally scheduled to kick off March 20 at Bayfront Park.
City leaders and the festival’s official account confirmed the reports saying Ultra will be postponed to March 26 through 28 of 2021.
A notice on Ultra Music Festival’s website and Facebook page stated those who purchased tickets for the event will receive an email on Monday but did not specify if refunds would be issued.
The statement from Ultra’s organizers reads in part, “We completely understand how extremely frustrating this is … [This is] an unprecedented issue which is not being taken lightly, and we must continue to defer to the authorities for guidance.”
The news also came as a disappointment for the Kiwanis Club of Little Havana, the charitable organization that hosts Calle Ocho and is known for its work in the community.
“This will be detrimental to the organization’s ability to provide services and programs to underserved kids in the city for the upcoming year,” said Jorge Fernandez, the organization’s president, in a statement. “Nonetheless, we understand the city’s priority is to protect the safety and welfare to all residents, visitors and businesses in Miami.”
City of Miami leaders said they are aware it is not a favorable decision for those who were anticipating the events and bought tickets and even flights, but they stressed it was the responsible thing to do.
Officials said the decision came after checking with CDC guidelines and speaking to health experts about the virus.
“We’re going to see it sooner or later and most likely it’s within our community already,” said Carollo.
“We have to err on the side of caution,” said City of Miami Fire Rescue Chief Joseph Zahralban.
“In a time when we do not yet have a vaccine, when testing kits are not abundant globally and geographically enough to take care of the situation, residents are being asked to change their habits while our city can take proactive measures as well,” said Miami District 2 Commissioner Ken Russell. “Being proactive is not panic.”
City of Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina also stressed that while not much is known about the coronavirus, it is known the elderly and those with underlying health issues are most at risk.
“While in South Florida and in the City of Miami, we have a sizable elderly population, and we need to be especially mindful of our most vulnerable, and that’s the elderly. That is one of the elements that we considered in making this decision,” said Colina.
“This virus has gotten ahead of the world. The City of Miami is choosing to stay ahead of the virus,” said Russell.
Mayors of other municipalities across Miami-Dade said their scheduled events would remain as planned.
“Jazz In The Gardens is going forward,” said Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert III.
“We do have a number of events coming up, and for the time being, the message is we’re staying the course,” said North Bay Village Mayor Brent Latham.
The City of Hialeah will not be taking any chances and decided to cancel all events scheduled for March.
However, Carnaval on the Mile in Coral Gables, also organized by the Kiwanis Club, will go on as planned Saturday and Sunday.
In a statement, Coral Gables spokesperson Maria Rosa Higgins Fallon said, “Working with the Kiwanis of Little Havana, organizers of the event, to ensure CDC guidelines are being followed. The event will have hand sanitizing stations, CDC prevention messages posted throughout and fire department personnel will be present.”
Meanwhile, organizers for Miami Beach Pride said this year’s event will go on as planned from March 28 to April 5.