Palm Beach County officials were joined by representatives from the Health Care District of Palm Beach County on Tuesday, Feb. 23 to announce the opening of a new COVID-19 vaccination site at the Burns Road Community Center in Palm Beach Gardens.
The facility, located at 4404 Burns Road, is just east of Military Trail, south of PGA Blvd. The new site began distributing vaccines at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 24 and is operating as an appointment-only site.
District 1 County Commissioner Maria Marino opened with a description of the site, which was scheduled to give 500 vaccines on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively, and another 1,000 vaccines on Friday.
“We have converted a gymnasium into the area where the vaccines and registration is,” Marino said. “We also have another room set aside if, in fact, we have more vaccines. We do have room for overflow.”
Marino further explained that the contract to use the site runs through August, with the option to extend it if the need arises.
Health Care District CEO Darcy Davis followed up with details about the process and the status of vaccines in the county.
“We are working hard every day to maximize efficiencies in the fight against COVID-19 and to get shots safely into arms,” Davis said. “To that end, we have attempted to streamline the appointment request process. Anyone 65 and older who is interested in getting their vaccination at one of our sites needs to go to http://vaccine.hcdpbc.org and complete the appointment request form.”
Davis explained the priority remains for those on the Department of Health waiting list, but they do realize some individuals may get stuck in the online process.
“We have created a box on this request so that individuals who are in the DOH waiting list can click that. This will alert us that they are on the original list, and we continue to give them priority placement in open appointments. If someone still has a challenge, individuals with questions about the process can call our help line at (561) 804-4115, and someone will walk them through the process.”
The helpline is available in English and Spanish, with Creole expected to be ready soon.
“We hope this is a clear direction that will make the registration process smoother going forward,” Davis said. “The number of vaccines that we’ve provided since December now exceeds 60,000 from the coast to the Glades, from the South County Civic Center to the mass vaccination site at the South Florida Fairgrounds, and soon from right here in Palm Beach Gardens. This has been done by approximately 200 Health Care District workers along with support from Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue, volunteers from the United Way, Palm Beach County leadership and the Florida Department of Health.”
Davis added that approximately 75 percent of patients complete the registration process online, and that is a key ingredient to sites operating smoothly. She has received significant feedback from many residents pleased with their entire visit taking less than 30 minutes.
Despite weather delays last week, Davis said her agency is on track with scheduling appointments.
“The Burns Road Community Center, the South Florida Fairgrounds and the South County Civic Center are walk in, not drive up, and by appointment only,” she said. “Staff is on hand to answer questions and will use electronic tablets to help individuals who still need to complete their forms. Kiosks are also available for self-service.”
The Burns Road site can administer as many as 1,000 shots a day, and appointments are scheduled on a week-by-week basis, depending on vaccine supply.
Florida Department of Health-Palm Beach County Director Dr. Alina Alonso provided updated local numbers on the pandemic, starting with a county total of 117,842 cases as of Feb. 21. The new cases on that date were 279.
“That’s the lowest number of cases that we’ve had in months, so our staff is very optimistic. We can’t let our guard down though,” Alonso said. “Our hospitalizations to date are 5,928 — that’s 5 percent of all our total cases. That’s just 1 percent higher than the state’s 4 percent. Our deaths are 2,412, that’s at 2 percent of all our cases, and that is the same as the state. Our death numbers continue to go down. Positivity rate for Feb. 21 was 6.70 percent. We have had four days of being in the 5 percent range. Again, we are cautiously optimistic.”
Alonso continued to stress the “three Ws” — wearing your mask, washing your hands and watching your distance.
“Vaccination coverage for those over 65 years old, for that we are in the number one place. We are at 57 percent of our seniors age 65 and over have been vaccinated in Palm Beach County… We’ll keep the appointments coming, we’ll keep the vaccine coming, we’ll continue to ask for more vaccine. There’s so much more that we can still do.”
As expected, the Palm Beach County Commission extended the COVID-19 State of Emergency until Feb. 26, and the emergency order on facial coverings to March 19. These are likely to continue.