On Wednesday, the City of Coral Gables sent its newsletter to residents and included an article on Coronavirus (COVID-19).
In what the City is calling a “mistake,” the email stated that, ” The City of Coral Gables Fire Department’s Division of Emergency Management is actively monitoring the development of the current respiratory virus know as Coronavirus (COVID-19). There are no known cases of the virus in the City of Coral Gables or Miami-Dade County. All measures up to this point are precautionary and educational in nature as there is no threat to Coral Gables residents or the residents of Miami Dade County.”
The City’s eNews newsletters are the responsibility of current Public Affairs Manager, Maria Rosa Higgins-Fallon.
In conversations with the City, Gables Insider was told that the use of words was a “mistake” by Higgins-Fallon and a “poor choice of words,” while assuring us that the City is taking COVID-19 seriously and its Emergency Manager, Fire Chief Marcos De La Rosa is working with medical professionals and his predecessor, Marc Stolzenberg, to monitor the situation and adhere to CDC recommendations.
Higgins-Fallon has long struggled to secure press coverage for the City. She has actively alienated members of the press and been uncooperative with others. City Hall insiders also say she was instrumental along with her former boss and city manager, Cathy Swanson-Rivenbark for blocking the Police and Fire departments from having their own social media accounts to communicate public safety matters.
The City has recently begun a search for a new Communications and Public Affairs Division Director, an $82k – $119k a year position that would oversee Higgins-Fallon’s work and ensure “mistakes” like this one are a thing of the past. Higgins-Fallon makes over $101,000 a year in her current position.
Members of the City Commission expressed their concern with the wording, while reassuring that the City is taking the virus seriously:
“We are asking our residents to stay informed and follow CDC guidance. We are working closely with Miami-Dade County and the State of Florida, as we continue to monitor this developing situation. I have expressed my concerns to the City Manager in regards to this statement, as this is a serious concern and we should take every precaution to ensure the public’s safety,” said Vice Mayor Vince Lago.
“I think the overall goal of the communications is to acknowledge the threat and provide useful information. Overall, I thought the communication was very informative and provided objective information for our residents. The choice of words in that one sentence (“no threat”) was poor. If there was no threat we would not be monitoring it and making these efforts. I communicated with the Manager this afternoon and he has addressed it. Our communications staff will be more judicious with their choice of words and stick to providing facts and updates as opposed to attempting to allay concerns,” said Commissioner Michael Mena.