The increase in the rate of COVID-19 cases, as well as fatalities, has decreased slightly in Palm Beach County, but residents must remain vigilant with social distancing and masking to see a meaningful decrease and bring the virus under control, Florida Department of Health-Palm Beach County Director Dr. Alina Alonso told the Palm Beach County Commission on Tuesday, Aug 4.
Alonso added that block parties and large gatherings such as weddings and birthday parties are contributing significantly to the failure to control the virus.
“Together, we can do this,” she said at the meeting held virtually. “We did it prior to our re-opening, and we need to do it again.”
Total cases in Florida are nearing 500,000, with 34,550 in Palm Beach County and 845 deaths.
“The group that is growing the largest is the 25- to 34-year-olds,” Alonso said. “They now have 6,548 cases. That is the number that continues to grow the most, followed by the 15- to 24-year-olds, and the 35- to 44-year-olds. However, the ones dying continue to be 40 percent of those patients over the age of 85.”
She stressed that COVID-19 cases are being traced to social gatherings, such as parties, birthdays, weddings and barbecues, that bring people together.
“We see that after these events, we have spikes in the number of cases related to those events,” Alonso said. “We can show that by both our contact tracing, as well as by information being given by the police and others who are looking at these events and trying to break them up… Obviously, the masks come off, the drinking starts and all your inhibitions are relaxed, and, therefore, we make mistakes.”
In Florida, 3.8 million people have been tested out of a total population of 21.5 million, amounting to 17.5 percent of the population, with a positivity rate of 13.09 percent.
“The overall goal for this number is to be under 10 percent,” Alonso said. “The [current] daily positivity rate for Florida is at 9.09 percent, which is just below the goal of 10 percent for the state, but remember, we want to go all the way down to 5 percent to be able to have effective contact tracing and be able to stop the spread of COVID-19.”
She emphasized that contact tracing is only a tool to measure the rate of spread.
“The virus can only be stopped by social distancing and wearing of the masks,” Alonso said. “What can each individual do to stop the spread? That’s the only way the virus will go down.”
In Palm Beach County, the positivity trend has gone up slightly over the past 14 days, but remains lower than Broward and Miami-Dade counties, the state’s other hotspots.
“We’re happy for that,” Alonso said. “This is not a good trend. We want it to be going down. However, I want you to notice that it’s very small increments. It’s going up very slowly. It could be going up much faster.”
She predicted that as more testing is done, the percentage will start going down if the community continues to practice social distancing and mask wearing.
To learn more about the county’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, visit www.pbcgov.com/coronavirus.