By Mike S Payton, Contributing Reporter
DELRAY BEACH, FLORIDA – The State of Florida reported 126 deaths from COVID-19 on Saturday, July 25th, reaching a total of 5,894. The total number of positive cases in the state is now 436,162, with 32,104 in Palm Beach County and 2,007 in the Greater Delray Beach area, a number which has almost doubled since the beginning of July.
During an afternoon news conference yesterday, Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner provided an update on local COVID-19 mitigation efforts, along with Dr. Alina Alonso, director of the Florida Department of Health for Palm Beach County and other officials.
Mayor Kerner reviewed two emergency orders (EOs) issued on July 23rd, EO 16 extends the Facial Covering Directive until August 23rd, and EO 15 revises restrictions on operating hours of restaurants, food establishments and other businesses, and provides clarification of current business closures.
“The bottom line is this. In Palm Beach County, if it’s after 11PM, there cannot be customers in the establishment,” said Mayor Kerner. This clarification was required as some businesses sought to find exceptions to staying open in some capacity, despite the spirit of the original order.
Today, in Palm Beach County there have been 32,104 COVID-19 positive cases and 767 deaths, according to Florida COVID Action, which is a 2.3 percent mortality rate. The number of deaths is second only to Miami-Dade County which has had 1,370. Palm Beach County’s daily lab positivity rate was also about twelve percent yesterday.
“We want to get it back to where it was when we reopened and that’s five percent,” said Dr. Alonso yesterday, reiterating the importance of wearing masks and practicing social distancing. “This is really the only tool we have to bring down the number of cases.”
“One of the problems we have now is that we’re seeing one area go down, New York, for example, California, they were able to bring their numbers down back to normal,” she said. “And [people] stop wearing their masks and they start getting together and they start partying and all of a sudden you see it rising again.”
She rehashed, “the virus needs to jump from person to person. If you don’t give the virus the opportunity to do that, the virus can’t be transmitted. From the very beginning that’s what we said, the only tool available in history for pandemics is distancing and keeping the virus from jumping from person to person.”
Even President Donald Trump who was slow to embrace the benefits of wearing a mask to fight the pandemic, said on Tuesday, “whether you like the mask or not, they have an impact.” He also acknowledged the pandemic “will probably unfortunately get worse before it gets better.”
City of Delray Beach Commissioner Juli Casale spoke on the issue yesterday on the city’s video update, discussing how after five months the community is still adapting. “We’ve been experiencing unprecedented levels of uncertainty for five months,” she said.
“People are concerned about getting sick, they’re concerned about their job status. They’re concerned about financial instability both in the short term and the long term. But it seems the residents have settled into the fact that wearing a mask is an effective way to combat the spread of the virus,” she continued.
Admitting, “it may not be comfortable, in some instances not super fashionable, but it is effective, and as a result, our businesses are open, and our city is functioning. We are managing as best we can under these unprecedented circumstances.”
Delray Beach Emergency Manager Chris Bell also spoke, addressing yesterday’s 136 deaths recorded in the State, and how the numbers accumulate over 2-3 weeks. “Some of those people probably died two or three weeks ago.”
Explaining, “That’s when the death certificate was noted to the Department of Health. So if you look on the [State Department of Health] dashboard you can see that numbers continue to accumulate.”
“We were not going in the right direction, we really need people to do the things voluntarily. […] stay home as much as possible unless you have to go to one of those essential activities, like getting groceries or going to work,” he said.
For perspective, Palm Beach County has 1.497 million residents, and from 2013 to 2018 the average deaths per year in the county were between 13,500 and 15,000, with the leading causes being heart disease, cancer and strokes.
To help with the devastating economic impact from the coronavirus, the City of Delray Beach provides a food assistance list where those in need can get food. From prepared meals for pick-up, grocery pick-up, food panties and even delivery options.
Palm Beach County’s Interactive Testing Map has over seventy testing sites, and can help residents find the closest private or community based testing location for them. For more information or to contact the COVID Education Compliance Team, please call 561-24COVID (561-242-6843) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.