Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay visited the Wellington Village Council meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 12 to present a proclamation and introduce a presentation by Florida Department of Health-Palm Beach County Director Dr. Alina Alonso with updated information regarding COVID-19 vaccinations.
McKinlay, whose district covers Wellington, presented a proclamation commemorating Wellington’s 25th anniversary of the community’s incorporation.
“It’s great to be able to do this proclamation in person to honor the Village of Wellington in recognition of this anniversary,” she said.
McKinlay then introduced Alonso, who joined via remote video.
She told council members that all COVID-19 vaccination appointments are controlled by the state, stressing that counties and municipalities have no control over appointments.
“The governor’s order is determining the priority of those who get vaccinations, and in what order,” Alonso explained.
Alonso also pointed out that the state’s web site for appointments can only handle 10,000 e-mails at a time to send automatic responses before it crashes. She was asked why this was not worked out before now, during the months the nation has been waiting for the vaccine to be developed. Her answer was a candid, “I don’t know.”
Councilman John McGovern said that most everyone is thankful that a vaccine now exists, but unhappy with the delayed rollout. “We share your frustration that it is not right here, right now for everyone,” he said. “We all want everyone to be vaccinated as soon as possible.”
McGovern noted that the highest number of cases that Wellington has had during the pandemic has been in the last two weeks, each of which has surpassed the previous one. “We need to double down on our efforts to follow the social distancing, wear a mask and stay away from crowds,” he said.
Alonso said that everyone eligible for a vaccine should e-mail for an appointment to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We have an impossible task before us now, and we’re moving as quickly as we can,” Alonso said.
She said that the phases of distribution have been formulated by the government in Tallahassee, and there is not nearly enough vaccine available for the 400,000 people in Palm Beach County eligible to get them.
Alonso said that her department has been lobbying for a greater supply. “We are trying to manage the expectations. It is the supply and demand situation,” she said.
Alonso explained that later, the governor’s office will move to phase two and will expand the categories of who can get the vaccine. “There will be mass vaccinations within a large area,” she said. “This will be followed by the third phase, where there should be sufficient vaccine to do the general public.”
It is important to get the vaccine when it is available to each person. “Herd immunity will not occur until there is at least 70 percent of the population vaccinated,” she said.
The council volunteered to be a distribution point with the health department, providing resources with Wellington’s partners to staff a facility.
Mayor Anne Gerwig also added that the council would endeavor to continue with its testing program as soon as additional funds become available.
“The vaccinations will be open to everyone [as their phase opens up], not just Wellington residents,” she said.
Alonso asked everyone to be patient.
“Even though we are seeing light at the end of the tunnel with the vaccine, we have a long way to go. We have to take more precautions now than we ever have before. We have to work harder than ever at maintaining our distance, wearing our masks,” she encouraged.
McKinlay also announced that Palm Beach County is the first in the state to be partnering with Publix for distribution of the vaccine, along with other virus-related initiatives.
“The county will be receiving approximately $45 million in rental assistance to help people stay in their homes,” she said.
In other business:
• The council held a public hearing at which only the applicant, Guy Yiftach, spoke. It was regarding the Hibiscus Palace project, located at 13931 Morning Glory Drive. The .34-acre site seeks to be a congregate living facility and required a conditional use approval. It is located near the intersection with Greenview Shores Blvd.
Senior Planner Damian Newell presented the application for the Type 2B facility that could have a maximum of 21 residents. He explained that the site meets the minimum standards for the required number of parking spaces, although this was a concern for several council members.
Councilman Michael Napoleone also didn’t like a canvas shade awning that would be visible from the street, worrying about deterioration due to the weather.
A discussion ensued with all council members reaffirming that they each favored such facilities in the village, but some council members had concerns with the location, near a busy intersection.
“I just don’t feel like this is a good mix at this location,” said McGovern, who verified with the applicant that his purchase of the property was contingent upon the council’s approval.
Councilman Michael Drahos had concerns about the parking at the site. “I am concerned about the parking being inadequate, especially as it is on a busy corner,” he said, even though staff reiterated that the facility meets the minimum parking code.
A motion to approve the facility passed 3-2 with McGovern and Drahos dissenting.
• The council approved hosting the 2021 South Florida Garlic Festival on March 6-7, barring any necessary need for changes due to COVID-19. It will be held at Wellington Green Park and plans are in place to adhere to CDC guidelines.
At a workshop held the previous day, council members had several reservations, and the applicant addressed all of the concerns overnight.
The event will feature live and DJ music, and sound levels will be monitored during the concerts. It will end at 9 p.m., and the location of the stage has been moved to accommodate council requests. No more than 3,000 people will be permitted at the 10-acre site at any one time. They will be seated in pods for families to remain socially distanced from others.
“Thank you for being so responsive and taking into account our recommendations,” Vice Mayor Tanya Siskind said.
“I wish it well. I hope it goes off well. I hope the weather is great,” Gerwig said.
The measure was approved by consensus.