By Mike S Payton, Contributing Reporter
DELRAY BEACH, FLORIDA – Late on Friday the Palm Beach County Mayor, Dave Kerner, announced that the county will ask to be included in Florida’s Phase 2 reopening. Amidst rising coronavirus cases and protests in the streets, the City of Delray Beach is waiting on the State’s decision before planning the next step.
Shelly Petrolia, Mayor for the City of Delray Beach, confirmed, “We are in a holding pattern until the powers above the municipalities iron out their plan. We can only go as far as they do but can be more conservative if we choose.”
While the economic pressure to reopen quickly is enormous, yesterday Florida reported an increase of 966 COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours. It was the first time since last Tuesday that the state reported fewer than 1,000 new cases in a day, and Thursday was the one-day high (1,419).
Delray Beach Police Chief Javaro Sims commented on the reopening for Phase 2. “My concern is that the public will get too relaxed in their efforts to keep themselves safe, not wearing their masks or practicing social distancing.”
Adding that during the recent protests, “Wearing a mask is definitely a tool that they need to continue to do. I think under the circumstances the movement is so profound that people are willing to risk the social distancing under the circumstances.”
“That’s an individual preference, but hopefully they will keep in mind the potential of the possibility of getting sick under the circumstances. So we continue to try to inform them and keep them informed of all the safety measures that we feel necessary to save lives.”
Delray Beach Fire Chief, Keith Tomey shared his biggest concern about the potential move to Phase 2 reopening. “As people return to their normal routines, we can expect to see the number of coronavirus infections rise,” he said.
Adding, “which is why we encourage residents to stay vigilant when it comes to taking safety measures recommended by health officials. Those include keeping at least 6 feet of distance from others, washing your hands, staying home if you’re sick, staying away from large crowds and wearing a mask in public.”
On Wednesday last week Chief Tomey, shared that State wide of the people being tested 8.1 percent were positive, admitting it was ticking up. However for Delray Beach at the time there were 496 cases, representing .0069 percent of the population.
Tomey admitted those numbers, “puts it in perspective as cases versus population. We’re still way down there in the percentage, all important to keep our eye on these numbers.”
Adding that “the fire department is still doing home-bound testing for anybody who can’t make it out to drive a testing site or walk up testing site, just give us a call at 561-243-7777.”
There have been twelve new coronavirus-related deaths reported in the state over the past 24 hours, including four in Broward County, two in Miami-Dade and one in Palm Beach County. Dr. Aileen Marty, an infectious disease specialist at FIU, told local Tallahassee news it will get worse.
“We’re going to continue to see increases in cases as people continue to not follow the standard things that we have to follow to avoid transmitting the virus. […] We’re no longer in lockdown. We’ve opened up our community.”
She added, “I think people, we’ve gotten a little lackadaisical about this horrific virus that hasn’t gone away from the world or our communities.”
As of the morning of June 8th, the confirmed cumulative cases are 1,946,144 in the U.S., with more than 116,929 deaths. Florida reports 64,904 coronavirus cases, deaths reach 2,712 deaths. In Palm Beach County, the confirmed cases have jumped up to 7,329 and deaths are 373.
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.
Of those COVID-19 cases reported in Palm Beach County to date, the State of Florida data lists the demographics as 45 percent are white and 19 percent are black. Hispanics listed under ethnicity make up 33 percent and the median age for the county is 47 years old.
The Phase 2 reopening for the State includes; restaurants allowed bar-top seating with appropriate social distancing, as well as bars and pubs able to operate at fifty percent capacity inside, and full capacity outside with appropriate social distancing (and patrons may only receive service if seated).
Retail establishments may operate at full capacity with responsible social distancing and sanitization protocols. Gyms may operate at full capacity with appropriate social distancing and frequent sanitization.
Entertainment businesses, including but not limited to movie theaters, concert houses, auditoriums, playhouses, bowling alleys and arcades, may operate at fifty percent capacity with appropriate social distancing and sanitization protocols.
Personal services businesses, including but not limited to tattoo parlors, acupuncture establishments, tanning salons and massage establishments may operate while adhering to guidance from the Florida Department of Health.
The CDC provides guidance, “Reopening America requires all of us to move forward together by practicing social distancing and other daily habits to reduce our risk of exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19.
“Reopening the country also strongly relies on public health strategies, including increased testing of people for the virus, social distancing, isolation, and keeping track of how someone infected might have infected other people.”