By Mike S Payton, Contributing Reporter
DELRAY BEACH, FLORIDA – While COVID-19 cases in Palm Beach County surge, the county mayor says it will enter ‘Phase 2’ reopening shortly, signaling a further relaxing of restrictions. Residents in Delray Beach have embraced the reopening, but recorded thirteen new cases in a single day yesterday, and officials are concerned.
In a push to restart the economy, Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner had requested the county join the State’s ‘Phase 2’ reopening plan last week and said after talking to officials in Governor Ron DeSantis’ office, “They feel comfortable with our narrowed Phase 2 request and a formal response will be forthcoming.”
However yesterday, Delray Beach Fire Chief, Keith Tomey, said in the city’s update. “This past month hasn’t gone as well as we had hoped, numbers have been increasing, and they’ve been steadily increasing. We knew they were going to increase, but not this much.”
Shelly Petrolia, Mayor for the City of Delray Beach, said, “It was announced that the Governor will be signing off on a partial Phase 2 opening for Palm Beach County in the coming days. This order will further increase restaurant occupancy as well as allow movie theaters, bowling alleys and arcades to re-open.”
“Most of these businesses have suffered a financial impact so devastating, It may prove impossible to recover. They need our support now more than ever to survive. At the same time, it is important to not let your guard down,” Petrolia said.
Adding, “Please continue to practice good COVID-19 protocols. Spikes in COVID-19 cases are anticipated as we move closer to 100 percent open, however, let’s not lose the gains we’ve made since becoming COVID-19 aware.”
The coronavirus pandemic forced national closures in March, but by May the State of Florida and Palm Beach County were ready to start a ‘Phase 1’ reopening. Unfortunately that has correlated to record breaking increases of COVID-19 cases throughout Southeast Florida.
The state’s data shows Florida entered Phase 1 on May 4th, and since then had 32,000 new cases, an increase of 87 percent. In that time period there has also been an increase of 1,449 deaths, which is an increase of 103 percent in Florida since it reopened.
Palm Beach County reopened a week later than the state, on May 11th, and saw COVID-19 cases increase by 4,576, a jump of 138 percent. In the same time period there were an additional 224 deaths, increased by 114 percent.
Chief Tomey explained that in Delray Beach there is a total of 580 cases, and an increase of 208, or 57 percent, since the reopening on May 11th. The numbers seem to be accelerating too, in a single day Delray Beach recorded thirteen new cases.
Mayor Petrolia said, “It is very concerning to see many people elect to not wear masks when visiting all areas of our town but especially in our downtown where pedestrian traffic is thick and sidewalks are narrow. Although not mandatory, the CDC and City urge wearing masks as they help with the spread of COVID-19.”
Tomey said, “[Since] we reopened our numbers have gone up and that’s because people are going out doing things together close proximity. You know, they’re not wearing their masks, maybe they’re not following their social distances of the six feet.”
Adding, “coronavirus hasn’t gone anywhere, it’s still here. You can tell by the numbers that it’s not going anywhere.”
Chief Tomey’s message to residents is “just wear your mask. Do your social distance things, wash your hands a lot, do all the things we’ve been saying, all the CDC recommendations. We have to stay vigilant, we can’t be complacent at this time.”
Mayor Petrolia also said, “The City, Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Development Authority are partnering to sponsor Mandatory Masks on special nights to not only support mask usage but also provide a safe environment for everyone to enjoy. Delray is for everyone!”
As of this morning, June 13th, Florida reports a record number of 1,902 new cases, pushing the total to nearly 71,000, and 2,877 deaths. Palm Beach County set a record with 322 new cases in a day, pushing total to 8,209 and 416 deaths.
To put that in 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.