By Mike S Payton, Contributing Reporter
DELRAY BEACH, FLORIDA – Despite some COVID-denier claims that there was no Thanksgiving surge, the facts show otherwise, and Delray Beach officials continue to urge caution this holiday season. Meanwhile as vaccines become available, Palm Beach County expects an initial delivery of 18,000 Moderna doses this week.
To the alarm of the medical community and public health officials, Fox News pushed a position that there was no Thanksgiving surge of COVID-19 cases despite 2020 Thanksgiving eve being the busiest air travel day of the pandemic. In contradiction to warnings from global health experts, hosts like Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham encouraged viewers to gather with family for Christmas.
“These predictions often don’t come to pass,” Ingraham said “Of course, act cautiously,” she said. “But Christmas is meant to be spent with your family, not isolated and locked down.” This was as Wednesday, December 16th, the U.S. recorded its deadliest day of the pandemic so far with 3,611 Americans dying from the virus.
Data shows that nationally there has been a seven-day average of 211,008 cases per day, an increase of 29 percent from the average two weeks earlier. In the greater Delray Beach area the number of COVID-19 cases climbed to 5,532 yesterday (December 20th), according to the Florida COVID Action site.
On Friday, December 18th, Delray Beach Emergency Manager Chris Bell discussed the trend locally. “In the last seven days the state has had more than 75,000 cases diagnosed. Just yesterday more than 13,000 new cases were diagnosed, and that was the third highest single day rate since the pandemic began in the county.”
Adding, “Yesterday [the county] had nearly 800 new cases and in just Delray Beach we had 49. So these are very high numbers, and the trend line continues to rise and so we unfortunately expect those numbers to continue to rise.” Fortunately he confirmed the number of ICU beds available are still more than 25 percent, however they are trending down state-wide.
Also on December 18th, County Mayor Dave Kerner provided an update on COVID-19 mitigation efforts. They reported the “daily lab positivity rate is 7.3 percent, about half the statewide rate of 14.53 percent. […] ICU beds at local hospitals occupied by COVID patients range from 13 to 19 percent; overall bed space occupied by COVID patients is around 65 percent.”
Regarding vaccines, the Palm Beach County press office shared that three priority operations had started or will start this week. “Receiving vaccinations first are those likely to be directly exposed to COVID-positive patients in the line of their day-to-day work and long-term care facilities,” a statement confirmed.
The next priority will be community distribution through pharmacies, public health clinics and existing COVID-19 testing collection sites, followed by delivery through routine health providers. Most hospitals in Palm Beach County are on the list to receive the Moderna vaccine beginning this week.
This vaccine is getting broader distribution than Pfizer’s because it does not require ultra-cold storage. The Moderna vaccine requires two shots, four weeks apart. The Florida Department of Health-Palm Beach County anticipates an initial delivery of 18,000 Moderna doses this week.
Public distribution to individuals throughout Palm Beach County – when additional supplies of the vaccine are available – will be done through traditional health care vaccination providers, drive-through sites, walk-up clinic sites, and mobile vehicles.
Betsy Marville, a nurse in Palm Beach County and SEIU organizer, told the Palm Beach Post the union recently surveyed its membership and found fifty percent have decided to take the vaccine, another 25 percent said they will probably get it, and 25 percent percent said they will decline.
“Nurses are people, too. They just need information,” she said. “We need to understand how it works and why we need it and why it is safe.”