The Miami Herald and New York Times reported this weekend Winter Party Festival organizers knew of 38 attendees who had gotten sick from COVID-19.
Three of those attendees lived in South Florida, and later died from the virus.
The Winter Party is an annual week-long festival that brings thousands of mostly gay men from around the world to Miami Beach. Many of the events are dance parties. The event is organized by the National LGBTQ Task Force and took place this year March 4-10. It ended one day before the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic.
“It points to what we didn’t know at the time,” Rea Carey, executive director of the Task Force, told the New York Times. “If we had had the information that is available now, the information that has become available after Winter Party as this pandemic has played out, we would have made a different decision.”
Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales would also have made a different decision.
“If I could do it over again, I’d probably cancel Winter Party,” The Miami Herald reported Morales saying during a city- sponsored webinar April 2.
Meanwhile other large events around the same time did make the decision to cancel including Ultra Music Festival scheduled for March 20, and Calle Ocho Festival scheduled for March 15.
Ultra made the decision to cancel on March 4, the first day of the Winter Party while Calle Ocho made their decision two days later.
“Hindsight is 20-20,” Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Góngora, a gay man, told the Miami Herald. “At the time it seemed so ludicrous that there was talk of social distancing.”
Israel Carrera, a 40-year-old gay man from North Miami Beach, died on March 27. His deaht was the first linked to the Winter Party.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help his family as he “was supporting his family and without him now we need help for his family.”
The page has raised $10,355 as of Wednesday. His partner Franco Conquista thanked the donors on the page.
“Thank you all so much again for your donations. You really are all heroes,” he wrote. “On behalf of Israel, his family and myself I thank you once again.”
Ron Rich, a 65-year-old gay man from Fort Lauderdale, died on March 28. His death became the second linked to the festival. Rich was a long- time volunteer of the Winter Party.
Thom Carr, a 67-year-old gay man from Fort Lauderdale, died Wednesday. His death became the third linked to the festival.