As local virus cases and deaths continue to recede, Florida Department of Health-Palm Beach County Director Dr. Alina Alonso cautioned the Palm Beach County Commission on Tuesday, Oct. 19 to anticipate another rise once the holiday season arrives.
“The data continues to improve, thanks to the incredible work that everyone’s doing here in Palm Beach County,” Alonso said.
Nationally, Florida has fallen behind Texas, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania for the number of cases in the last seven days, but Florida remains in the “significant” range of cases per week.
“That means we’re making progress,” Alonso said, adding that vaccinations have recently had an uptick. “That means our message is getting out to folks to get vaccinated.”
In the U.S., at least 77 percent of the population has had one dose and 66.7 percent have had two doses, she said.
“We’re getting there slowly, and the Delta variant is the one that’s making this harder to do,” Alonso said. “For all practical purposes, it’s the Delta that makes this really strong. It’s more contagious, and it creates those breakthrough cases that we’re seeing.”
The 1,744 cases per week reported at the last county commission meeting is down to 1,430 cases per week, compared to 9,000 per week at the peak, she said. The new case positivity rate is 4.1 percent and at 96.2 cases per 100,000.
“At our last commission meeting, we were at 6.5 [percent positivity] and 162.6 cases per 100,000,” Alonso said. “We’re well on our way to continue to go down.”
She said booster shots are hard for people to understand due to different brands of vaccine and availability to people who are in high-risk groups.
“The FDA has given approval for the Moderna boosters, however the product is not out yet,” she explained. “The dose in the bottle is half the strength of the original vaccine, so that supply has to get out to the pharmacies and vendors.”
People who took the Pfizer vaccine may simply ask for a third dose, she said, explaining that third doses and boosters are only available to people in high-risk environments or with immune deficiencies.
“The vaccination remains the most important tool to stop the spread,” Alonso said. “The hospitalizations have decreased.”
She urged the county leaders to prepare for a winter spike.
“We can’t let our guard down yet. We need to continue to be cautious, watch our distance, wash our hands. We need to hopefully get to ‘moderate’ [cases per week], so that it goes down enough so that when we do spike, it goes up just a little bit,” Alonso said. “I am optimistic that because of all the vaccinations that we have done that we won’t see the big spike that we saw in July.”
Learn more about Palm Beach County’s COVID-19 response at www.pbcgov.com/coronavirus.