County Officials Update Community On Virus Response

On Friday, Oct. 2, Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner gave an update at the Emergency Operations Center on local COVID-19 mitigation efforts. Joining him was Supervisor of Elections Wendy Sartory Link, Florida Department of Health-Palm Beach County Director Dr. Alina Alonso, County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay and County Administrator Verdenia Baker. Friday marked the 200th consecutive day of EOC Level 2 activation. The mayor signed the 30th declaration of a state of emergency.

Metrics — Palm Beach County reported 135 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday (46,833 total) and 16 new fatalities (1,389 total). The overall positivity rate statewide stands at 13.28 percent; daily lab positivity rate statewide is 3.77 percent. Palm Beach County’s total positivity rate is 12.58 percent with a daily lab positivity rate of 2.40 percent. More than 50 percent of new cases of COVID-19 are in the 15 to 45 age group, Alonso said.

Walk-Up Testing — The drive-through testing center at the South County Civic Center will transition to a walk-up site beginning Wednesday, Oct. 7. The walk-up site will be managed by the Health Care District of Palm Beach County and will utilize the district’s Scout mobile testing vehicle. The transition is in line with operational changes at the state level concerning state-supported testing sites. Also, the civic center serves as an early voting site, and some of the space needed for voters was taken up by the drive-through operation. Walk-up testing will be conducted on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. No appointment required. The South County Civic Center is located at 16700 Jog Road in Delray Beach.

Phase 3 — Palm Beach County Emergency Order 2020-028 was issued on Sept. 29 in response to the governor’s Executive Order 20-244, which moved all Florida counties into a Phase 3 re-opening. With the exception of Palm Beach County Emergency Orders 2020-012 (facial coverings) and 2020-017 (enforcement), all prior Palm Beach County emergency orders imposing COVID-19 related restrictions on individuals, businesses and/or establishments were repealed and replaced by EO 2020-028.

CECT — The COVID Education Compliance Team (CECT) continues to inspect establishments for mask and social distancing compliance. The team has processed 4,932 complaints. Approximately 7,000 complaints were received. Education remains the CECT’s primary focus. The public comment line is (561) 24-COVID.

Elections — The Supervisor of Elections Office has issued about 428,000 vote-by-mail ballots. If you do not wish to mail in your completed ballot, you can bring it to one of the four SOE offices in the county and place it in the drop box outside. Libraries and other facilities cannot accept mail-in ballots.

Agriculture — McKinlay participated in a roundtable teleconference Thursday with Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried about agricultural worker testing. The Glades growing season is underway. Mobile testing units are being deployed at farmworker migrant camps, and non-congregate living facilities are available. On behalf of the Board of County Commissioners and the employees of Palm Beach County, McKinlay wished President Donald Trump, First Lady Melania Trump and everyone at the White House “a speedy and uncomplicated recovery.”

Business Grants — The Palm Beach County CARES Restart Business Grants program resumed on Sept. 25 and ends Oct. 9 and provides grants of up to $25,000 to help “restart” businesses that were forced to close by state or county executive order. Through Thursday, 767 applications have been received, 551 reviewed and 109 approved. To date, a total of $51.5 million in checks have been issued.

Mortgage Assistance — On Oct. 9, the Department of Housing & Economic Sustainability (HES) will begin its second round of CARES Act funding for eligible households that are delinquent in their first mortgage and escrow payments. Additionally, funding may assist with late fees, attorney’s fees, condo/homeowner association fees, special assessments and other mortgage-associated costs related to COVID-19. To date, HES has processed 1,289 applications and issued 906 grant checks totaling $5.7 million.

Rent/Utilities Assistance – The CARES Act Rent and Utilities assistance program will start up again on Oct. 6. This program provides a one-time rental and utility assistance to eligible Palm Beach County residents who have experienced loss of income, reduction in hours or unemployment due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mask Mailing — To encourage the continued use of masks and limit the spread of COVID-19, the county will be doing a second mask mail out. This mailing will incorporate more post office boxes and multifamily housing units that may have been missed by the postal service in the first round. Each mailer will contain four cloth masks per household.

Census — Thus far, Palm Beach County has a 64.3 percent census compliance rate. The deadline to return completed census forms is Monday. “We want every single person in Palm Beach County to be counted,” Baker said.