PBSO Covert Compliance Team To Enforce Social Distancing Requirements

Palm Beach County Health Department Director Dr. Alina Alonso speaks at Friday's news conference.

Despite a spike in coronavirus cases, Palm Beach County will keep businesses open, with covert teams led by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office inspecting re-opened restaurants, bars and shops to make sure that they are complying with the CDC COVID-19 guidelines.

That announcement was made at a news conference held Friday, June 19 at the  Palm Beach County Emergency Operations Center.

Palm Beach County Health Department Director Dr. Alina Alonso said that when businesses in the county were allowed to open back up several weeks ago, the average new cases per day was 68.

“After being open for a while, those cases went up to 102 cases per day, which is a 60 percent increase,” Alonso said. “As of June 1, the numbers have averaged 220. That’s a 100 percent increase.”

She stressed that social distancing and the wearing of masks is the only strategy available until a vaccine is developed.

“It’s a very old medical practice, and it has been around for a long time,” she said. “That’s the only weapon we have. This is what happens during a pandemic. You have a new novel virus that we don’t know and have no vaccine against. That’s what we need to do if we want to keep our businesses open and save the lives of those who are most affected by this virus.”

Alonso said that the county’s residents need to follow the governor’s orders issued when the county was allowed to re-open.

“Those orders included and insisted on social distancing,” she said. “I need to specifically lean on the businesses and the employers. Please enforce and take serious the plans that you submitted to the Emergency Management Division.”

Alonso said that the virus is very aggressive but can be controlled with social distancing.

“This is a very serious pandemic, probably the most serious pandemic that we’ve seen,” she said, adding that the United States is leading the world in the number of cases and deaths, with Florida projected to be one of the new epicenters.

Alonso urged people to educate one another on the nature of the virus and urged employers to tell employees who are sick not to come to work.

She said that she was happy that the county has set up testing sites, including more than 60 commercial testing centers, but some of the people tested did not show symptoms but can still spread the virus.

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel (D-District 21), who attended the press conference, commented that it was sad that law enforcement must be called in to enforce social distancing.

“This is not about what political party you’re in,” Frankel said. “This is not what age you are, this is not freedom versus non-freedom, or whether you like business or don’t like business. For businesses to be successful, and for us to stay open, people have to be healthy.”

County Commissioner Greg Weiss said that because a business is open does not mean that it is safe not to practice social distancing and mask wearing.

Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner said that the multi-layered regulations put in place are complex, but the emphasis of the COVID-19 education and compliance team will be to educate first and enforce if necessary.

“As part of the COVID funding received through the CARES Act, we have purchased an additional 6.5 million masks and hand sanitizer and, for example, partitions — things that restaurants and businesses can use,” Kerner said. “The men and women behind me that comprise the COVID education and compliance team — their educational duties will be pushing that out into the community. We are here to help.”

To learn more about the county’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, visit www.pbcgov.com/coronavirus.

Watch the video from Friday’s news conference below: