By Mike S Payton, Contributing Reporter
DELRAY BEACH, FLORIDA – Palm Beach County announced that all beaches will be closed for the July 4th weekend, following alarming spikes of recorded COVID-19 cases, and the similar decision being made in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
The details will be worked out by the County today, Monday, June 29th, but the re-closure will apply to all public and private beaches in the county, from Friday through Sunday. Delray Beach had decided over a month ago to cancel the fireworks show, but the beach closure news will certainly be disappointing for many looking forward to the holiday weekend.
“In light of the closure of the beaches in Broward and Miami-Dade counties for the Fourth of July weekend, it is my position that to allow our beaches in Palm Beach County to be open during that time period would be highly irresponsible,” Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner said in a statement.
“In consultation with our county administrator, we will be issuing an order tomorrow morning that we’ll close the Palm Beach County beaches throughout the entirety of the weekend,” said Kerner during an interview with CNN on Sunday.
“It is an unfortunate result but public health remains the focus of the elected leaders of Palm Beach County and unfortunately this Fourth of July will not be spent at the beach.”
Mayor Kerner confirmed in a statement Sunday evening to WPTV NewsChannel 5, “I’ve given direction to the county administrator to prepare an order that will close all beaches in Palm Beach County Thursday through Sunday.”
Delray Beach Fire Chief, Keith Tomey, said this morning, “I do feel like it was the right decision and the best for Delray Beach. As we entered into Phase 1, people started going to the beach, started going out, and we’ve noticed a sharp increase in new cases.”
Adding, “We want to discourage people from congregating and gathering, even if it’s outside in the sun with the wind blowing. The 4th of July is usually a huge beach day for Delray Beach. When we have fireworks displays, we’ve had up to 80,000 people on the beach.”
While reported COVID-19 cases in Florida were less today than the last four days, last week has seen huge spikes in reported cases as the coronavirus has raged through the state since Phase 1 reopening was allowed.
Today, June 29th, Florida’s confirmed COVID-19 cases have reached a total of 141,075, with 3,447 deaths. Palm Beach County has recorded a total of 13,711 with 503 deaths. The median age of positive cases has dropped again to 43 years old, and split half and half between male and female.
Of those COVID-19 cases reported in Palm Beach County to date, the State of Florida data lists the demographics as 41 percent white and 17 percent are black. Hispanics listed under ethnicity make up 33 percent.
The largest cumulative number of cases in Palm Beach County are in the 25-34 age group (2,410), followed by 35-44 (2,200) and 45-54 (2,025). About 26 percent of adult intensive care beds are available across Florida, 24 percent in Palm Beach County.
The only good news in the COVID-19 data is that deaths appear to be going down, however a report by Bloomberg explains how that information is often lagging several weeks for doctors to fill out death certificates and health officials to adjudicate the deaths.
“You can’t look at deaths as an indicator of where the outbreak is at this particular period of time,” said Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
Waiting for data to roll in requires “patience that is hard to muster during a crisis,” said Joe Gerald, an associate professor of public health policy and management at the University of Arizona. But “if you want reliable, complete data, you have to wait for it, especially on deaths.”
Delray’s Fire Chief Tomey confirmed locally, “Test results for new cases return rather quickly, in three to four days, but accurate death rates require autopsies to be performed, and it can take a week or two weeks before those results are processed.”
For perspective for Palm Beach County, it 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.
Palm Beach County’s Interactive Testing Map has over 62 testing sites, and can help residents find the closest private or community based testing location for them.
* This article has been updated on June 29th to reflect the formal announcement made Monday afternoon by Palm Beach County, that all public, municipal, and private beaches, including all beach parks, in Palm Beach County shall be closed from 12:01 AM on Friday, July 3rd until 11:59 PM on Sunday, July 5th.