In recent weeks, Palm Beach County has seen a decline in daily COVID-19 positivity rates, despite a national and statewide upward trend, according to a report at the Tuesday, Dec. 15 meeting of the Palm Beach County Commission.
Also this week, vaccines arrived in Florida at select hospitals, although it will not be immediately available to the general public.
Florida Department of Health-Palm Beach County Director Dr. Alina Alonso said the spike in new cases of the virus in the U.S. has continued to rise. On Dec. 4, Alonso reported the highest spike yet of 227,885 new cases, followed by a sharp drop over the following two days, followed by more sharp rises.
“My hope was that the peak was finally coming down,” she said of the national numbers. “My problem was that the peak was straight up, exponentially. That’s not good news, and before things start coming down, that other side has to come down… Yesterday [Dec. 14], we actually had the highest number of cases in the U.S. — 232,369 new cases in one day. That’s a lot to handle.”
As a result, she said hospitals are short staffed and in a critical mode with the holidays and people traveling. She thanked county residents and businesses for observing CDC rules of wearing masks and social distancing. She attributed this for the county seeing an average decrease in daily COVID-19 cases of positivity.
“We went significantly down,” Alonso said. “We were at 5.67 [percent positivity]. That’s the first time we’ve been at 5 for about three weeks, so that’s very good. This virus isn’t over, and we can’t let our guards down.”
The county cases have continued to decline, from an average of 552 cases per day from Nov. 30 to Dec. 6 to 512 cases per day from Dec. 7 to Dec. 13.
Miami-Dade County continues to lead the state in positivity at 9.12 percent, up from 8.5 percent. Broward County went down from 7.68 to 7.53 percent.
“Florida has now had a total of 1,134,383 cases, which is an additional 8,452 new cases,” Alonso said. “That has gone up.”
Florida had 142 hospitalizations and 137 deaths since Dec. 8, compared to 105 at the commission’s previous meeting, for a total of 58,269 hospitalizations and 20,003 total deaths.
“That’s not a good indicator, and the concern is of the elderly becoming infected, having to go to the hospital and then deaths occurring, so we’ve got to keep a close eye on that,” Alonso said.
Five hospitals in Florida started receiving the first vaccines on Dec. 14, although none of them are in Palm Beach County. She said the hospitals were chosen based on their ability to manage and store the vaccine, which must be stored in super-cold freezers.
“There’s still a lot of information that we don’t have,” Alonso said. “There’s still a lot of plans we still have to do. We had lots of coverage yesterday about the nurses who received the vaccine. The governor was at Tampa General and saw the vaccine come through.”
As those hospitals vaccinate their staff and get more vaccines, they will start to distribute it to other counties. Nursing homes and assisted living facilities who registered to receive help will start receiving vaccinations as soon as next week, Alonso said, giving credit to scientists worldwide who have worked cooperatively to develop the vaccines.
“Everybody across the globe has been working on this,” she said.
More information about COVID-19 in Palm Beach County is available at www.pbcgov.com/coronavirus.