By Mike S Payton, Contributing Reporter
DELRAY BEACH, FLORIDA – Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner met with reporters late Friday, July 17th, at the Emergency Operations Center to discuss the current spike in COVID-19 positivity rates in South Florida and steps that are being taken in Palm Beach County to lower the numbers and keep citizens safe.
On Thursday, the county reported 923 new cases of COVID-19, the second highest daily number to date. About one-third fewer new cases (650) were reported Friday. A total of 24,361 confirmed cases have been reported in Palm Beach County with 659 fatalities.
Of the County hospitals providing data, they report 506 patients are currently hospitalized, with an additional 96 ICU beds still available, representing 23 percent of the total ICU beds. However the cumulative positivity rate from COVID-19 testing has increased to twelve percent, up from nine percent three weeks ago.
The greater Delray Beach total positive cases have reached 1,598 today, nearly thirty percent more than a week ago. In alarming news for locals, former Delray Beach Mayor Jeff Perlman is in Bethesda Hospital with COVID-19, reportedly in need of a Plasma donation from someone that has antibodies.
Perlman wrote in a statement available July 11th, “Last night I tested positive for Covid and pneumonia. I was admitted to Bethesda Hospital where they are taking great care of me. I was careful: masks and social distancing but I did go to a few restaurants.”
“I’ve been working remotely for months. I post this to urge you to be careful and to take this seriously. It’s a scary deal,” he wrote. “I feel very fatigued and short of breath. But I’m hopeful to be home soon. Please be safe and I hope to see you after this crazy pandemic runs its course.”
When asked yesterday if officials may have to revert to shutting down the local economy to stop the community spread, County Mayor Kerner replied, “Nothing is off the table, we have some work to do. We are in what I would call a plateau in positivity. What we need to do is keep this manageable.”
There are no plans at this time to impose a curfew, as Broward County has ordered. However, Palm Beach County has issued an order that states no establishment permitted to serve food for on-site consumption, whether indoor or outdoor, shall serve food between the hours of 11PM and 5AM. Delivery, drive-through, pick-up, or take-out services are permitted.
This was in addition to the June 23rd executive order mandating masks or facial covering, but there is resistance by some, and anyone passing through Atlantic Avenue will see few pedestrians wearing one. The executive order requires masks ‘when social distancing is not possible’, however enforcement seems unclear.
In an effort to help encourage face covering, “Combat COVID” masks will be mailed out to all Palm Beach County households next week. The “Combat COVID” app is also expected to launch next week. It notifies those who download the app when they come in close proximity to another app user who has tested positive.
“It is cutting-edge technology,” said Mayor Kerner. “It is the type of technology that needs to be developed in the heat of the moment like this.”
The COVID Education and Compliance Team (CECT), which conducts unannounced visits to businesses that may not be following mask and social distancing rules, has been very effective, the mayor said. Over 3,300 complaints have been received on the COVID hotline.
“We are gaining compliance and it’s starting to bear some real fruit for this community,” said Mayor Kerner. “It has changed the conduct and the way people feel about compliance.”
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.