Florida families warn against gatherings as they mourn

MIAMI (AP) — At a Miami park that has been turned into a memorial for COVID-19 victims, families and officials gathered Tuesday to honor people who have died as they pleaded with others to avoid Thanksgiving dinners with those outside their home.

U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson and other local officials spoke about the holidays approaching as the number of confirmed cases and hospitalizations creeps up in Florida after stabilizing in September and October following a summer surge.

Joana Moore holds a portrait of her mother Patsy Gilreath Moore who died at age 79 from COVID-19 as she poses for a photograph at a symbolic cemetery created to remember and honor lives lost to COVID-19, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020, in the Liberty City neighborhood of Miami. Officials announced that a new COVID-19 testing site will be opening in the neighborhood. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Hundreds of white corrugated plastic sheets shaped like tombstones, some with names and messages, were staked on the lawn in rows simulating a cemetery.

Registered nurse Joanna Moore said she and her sister, also a nurse, thought they had done everything to protect their 79-year-old mother from the illness by isolating her in a separate area of her home and keeping her 10 feet apart from others.

“We felt we had taken all of the proper precautions to keep my mother safe,” said Moore, who said they later learned a family member who had visited the home had been exposed to the virus. Moore said her mother did not have underlying conditions.

A retired middle-school teacher, Patsy G. Moore did not really present any symptoms besides excessive sleeping. When her daughter took her to urgent care, she already suffered from pneumonia.

“There will be someone sitting at your dinner table on Thursday evening who may not be with us at Christmas,” Moore addressed a small crowd at the park. “If you are hosting at your home, I urge that you consider the potential outcome that is so catastrophic.”

Officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are also advising against travel and deterring people from spending Thanksgiving Day with others from outside their household. But hotels in Miami Beach are experiencing last-minute bookings that may get them near full occupancy for the first time since March.

Hospitalizations continued to rise in Florida on Tuesday, with 3,787 patients with the virus, up from 3,748 Monday. Numbers of confirmed cases also have been rising in the past few weeks, and officials have not adopted additional restrictions to prevent the virus from spreading like they did in March and in July.

Wilson said she wanted people in her district to have a place to visit and collectively grieve for their loved ones, but she also said the park serves as a visual reminder of the human cost of the virus.

“I am standing and asking the community to take the realm of this fight,” Wilson said. “We are losing too many people and too many people do not care that this virus is roaring through this country.”