Why COVID-19 has not ravaged Miramar


Why COVID-19 has not ravaged Miramar

Mayor with Jamaican heritage credits quick action by city managers

Observer writer

Monday, May 25, 2020

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THOUGH he had followed early news reports of a potentially dangerous virus affecting the world since early January, Wayne Messam says it was not until returning to Florida from Montego Bay in mid-February that he grasped the seriousness of what became known as COVID-19.

“At check-in at the airline the first thing I was asked was if I had travelled to Asia, which I found pretty peculiar. So, I said if this thing had reached to this side of the hemisphere it must be pretty big,” he recalled in an interview with the Jamaica Observer.

Messam, who is mayor of the city of Miramar in South Florida, said once back home he directed city managers to plan for a devastating pandemic.

He credits that prompt action for COVID-19 not ravaging Miramar, Broward County's fourth-largest city with a population of 144,000. Just over 15 per cent of those residents are Jamaicans, making it home to one of the largest blocs from that country in the United States.

The 45-year-old Messam, whose parents are Jamaican, has been mayor since 2015. He won a second term last year when he also launched a dark horse bid for the Democratic nomination for US president.

When Messam spoke to the Observer two weeks ago, almost 400 people in Miramar had tested positive for COVID-19, making it the third-highest rate for Broward County. It could have been higher, he stressed, had preventative measures not been in place.

“We were one of the first cities to issue a state of emergency, one of the first cities to declare a stay-at-home order, as well as require residents to wear facial covering so we could do our part to slow down the pandemic,” he said.

Last week, Miramar's COVID-19 response got a boost with the installation of a walk-up testing site. Previously, testing for constituents took place at CB Smith Park and Hard Rock Café in neighbouring cities Pembroke Pines and Hollywood, respectively.

While no COVID-19 deaths have been recorded in Miramar, the city has not escaped the economic downturn sweeping the US. On May 13 the city manager announced that some employees, including police officers and firefighters, would face furloughs starting in June and ending December.

After wide-scale protests, that decision has been reversed.

Leading the charge against a killer virus came nearly one year after Messam launched his long shot campaign for US president. He called time on that run in November due to lack of funding.

Messam is the fourth of five children born to parents from Maidstone, Manchester. His father Hubert was a farm worker; his mother Delsey was employed as a domestic helper.

He and a younger brother were born in the US, growing up in West Palm Beach. A star football player at Florida State University, Messam began his public career in 2011 as a Miramar City commissioner. Four years later he defeated the incumbent Lori Cohen Moseley for mayor in a tight race. He won re-election easily in 2019.

Messam, who owns a construction company, is married with three children. He has no regrets about his presidential bid.

“There were several positives from it. One being that Americans got to see that the country belongs to all of us, not just the elites. The campaign showed that someone from an immigrant background defied all the odds to become a public servant with a track record of success,” he said.

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