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By Mike S Payton, Contributing Reporter

DELRAY BEACH, FLORIDA – In the greater Delray Beach area, the number of COVID-19 cases climbed to 7,115 cases today, according to the Florida COVID Action site. This number continues a climb at an accelerated rate and has nearly doubled since November 1st, while officials consolidate testing options and prepare for vaccinations.

COVID-19, Coronavirus, Delray Beach, Palm Beach County, Florida
In the greater Delray Beach area, the number of COVID-19 cases climbed to 7,115 cases today, image recreation.

On Friday, the Health Care District of Palm Beach County announced it is consolidating its COVID-19 testing operations in preparation for vaccination efforts with the county and state operations.

Beginning this week, COVID-19 testing will no longer be offered at the South County Civic Center, according to health officials. Patients will instead be asked to schedule an appointment at the C. L. Brumback Primary Care Clinic in Delray Beach at 225 S. Congress Avenue, just south of Atlantic Avenue.

Testing hours at the Delray Beach Clinic site have expanded from 8:30 AM to 4PM Monday through Friday to accommodate more patients, health officials said and appointments are required. To schedule an appointment for COVID-19 testing, officials say to call 561-642-1000 weekdays between 8AM and 5PM.

All of the Health Care District of Palm Beach County’s COVID-19 testing sites will be closed Monday, January 18th in observance of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday.

On Wednesday last week, Delray Beach Fire Rescue (DBFR) also announced they would be administrating a limited number of COVID-19 vaccines for people 65 and older. The County provided 200 vaccine doses to the DBFR, online registration began at 10AM Thursday, and eight minutes later, Delray Beach announced on Twitter that all appointments had been filled.

The county reports 4,706 daily dosages as of Friday, and as of January 15th, 67,874 cumulative vaccines for a population of 1.5 million.

Samer Fahmy, M.D., chief medical officer at Boca Raton Regional Hospital explained, “With COVID-19, you need up to 75- or 80-percent of people to have immunity to really halt the transmission and to slow it down to the point where we can go back to normal.”

COVID-19, Coronavirus, Testing, Delray Beach, Palm Beach County, Florida
Samer Fahmy, M.D., chief medical officer at Boca Raton Regional Hospital, photo by Baptist Health South Florida.

Other frustrating news reported by the Palm Beach Post is that African American citizens in Florida, who make up 9.2 percent of the state’s 65 and older population, accounted for only 4.9 percent of the first vaccine recipients.

County health director Dr. Alina Alonso said, “My biggest concern is not the priority groups that have been determined but the fact that the very community that needs it the most is least likely to take it because of fear and mistrust.”

“We’re seeing in long-term care facilities, the staff is very representative of minority groups and hardly anybody is taking it,” she said. “This fear is there for a reason.”

The black population in Florida accounts for thirteen percent of the state’s coronavirus hospitalizations, and 16.8 percent of its deaths, according to the Post.

The Palm Beach County and community health partners have announced a virtual COVID-19 Vaccine Town Hall to be held on Thursday, January 21st, from 7PM to 9PM.

Members of the public may submit questions ahead of time to public@pbcgov.org, and a limited number of questions will be taken during the live event via Webex. Pre-registration is required online here.

The Town Hall panelists will include Dr. Alina Alonso, Dr. Kitonga Kiminyo an infectious disease specialist, Dr. Tiffany McCalla-Bottorff and Dr Moise W. Anglade.

Also Debra L. Robinson of the Palm Beach County School Board, Verdenia C. Baker, County Administrator and co-moderated by County COmmissioner Mack Bernard and Salesia Smith-Gordon, ESQ.

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