Dr. Alina Alonso, director of the Florida Department of Health-Palm Beach County, reminded the Palm Beach County Commission on Tuesday, July 7 that Florida remains the state with the highest number of new COVID-19 cases in the nation, and that the virus is likely to stick around for quite a while.
“We have had an increase of 6,336 new cases and an additional 47 deaths,” Alonso said. “Our deaths have gone up and down, so this amount today since yesterday hopefully will not be a trend.”
The most recent spike does not compare to the spike that occurred on July 3 — when there were 11,000 new cases — but it’s still a significant number of new people with the virus, along with a significant number of new deaths, she said, noting that Florida was just below New York and California with its total number of cases.
“We continue to get those higher numbers in the 25- to 34-year-olds and in the 15- to 24-year-olds, and those are the largest increases, so we continue to see that as a pattern,” Alonso said. “Some of those people are going to the hospital at this point. We have 298 children under the age of 4, and some have been in the hospital for observation.”
Three Florida teenagers have died of COVID-19, two of them age 17 and one 14.
“The point is that age group is good for us because they are not as likely to run into the complications that adults and the elderly are running, but we have to take notice that even in young children, when they do test X-rays, they see changes in the lungs,” Alonso said.
She explained that even while children may not die from COVID-19, they could develop serious, lifelong complications.
“We have no idea what the long-term effect of this will be,” Alonso said. “This is not your usual virus that goes away. It’s not a common cold. This virus has consequences to the body, and we have no idea what those consequences are going to be as we go forward.”
More than 3,000 children under age 18 have been tested in Palm Beach County, and more than 1,000 of them were positive for COVID-19.
“Almost a third of the kids that we are testing have been positive,” she said. “There are other counties that have higher records… but the fact is that it’s a significant number. To me, that’s a significant number of children who will have consequences going down the pike.”
Overall testing positivity for Palm Beach County has gone up from 8.8 percent to 10.6 percent, and lab positivity has gone up steadily.
“The last time we were at 10.75 [percent], and now we’re at 13.2,” Alonso said. “Again, the reason for taking these two positivity rates is to look at the concentration of the virus amount that’s in the community. It’s not just the fact that we are testing more people.”
She added that the rapid increase is no longer limited to Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.
“At one point, we were at 60 percent of the cases in Florida. Now we’re down to only 20 percent of the cases, which means that you see counties like Collier, Lee, Pinellas, Hillsborough, Polk, Duval, Orange and other places inside other counties that have really high numbers,” Alonso said. “This is spreading really rapidly throughout Florida, and this virus is going to be around for a really long time.”
To learn more about the county’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, visit www.pbcgov.com/coronavirus.