At the Palm Beach County Commission meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 25, Florida Department of Health-Palm Beach County Director Dr. Alina Alonso said the number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. is going down, but the number of deaths is increasing.
“There’s a lot of communication in the news that our numbers are going down… but the number of deaths are going up nationwide,” Alonso said. “Our vaccination rate is pretty much stagnant. We’ve got 80 percent of people vaccinated with one vaccine only, but the fully vaccinated is still down at 67.4 [percent], and we have very high community transmission. It’s off the charts in terms of the numbers it’s supposed to be on the scale.”
The nationwide trend is very different from what is happening in Palm Beach County.
“We are seeing the Omicron at 99 percent, so everything that is out there is Omicron, so we have to take that into account when we talk about therapies,” she said.
Alonso noted that on Monday, the FDA announced new guidelines that monoclonal therapies are no longer to be used throughout the U.S. Those therapies, such as Regeneron, used heavily in Florida earlier in the pandemic, have been shown to be ineffective in treating the current Omicron variant.
Back in November the county was at 2.3 percent daily case positivity with a transmission rate of 48 patients per 100,000.
“We are now at 1,013 cases per 100,000, though this is coming down very fast,” Alonso said. “So, maybe in February, we will get that down, but right now the entire United States has a very high transmission rate.”
She said the positivity rate for new cases in the county is at 24.8 percent, where it needs to be below 5 percent. The numbers are very similar for Florida overall, but the numbers in Miami-Dade and Broward counties are higher than Palm Beach County.
The total number of cases per week in the county peaked at the end of December at 29,150.
“That made perfect sense, since it had to do with the holidays, Thanksgiving and the traveling and everything else, and then we were waiting for what would happen with New Year’s Eve. We were waiting to see if there would be another peak, and we did not [see one],” Alonso said. “People here in Palm Beach County pretty much stayed home for New Year’s Eve. Although we partied a lot in the streets and threw a lot of fireworks, people behaved pretty well, so we did not have that peak. Our numbers started coming down, and now we have almost the same kind of steep cases going down to 3,351 cases for our last week.”
She added that the county’s death rate has also gone down sharply from its peak in early January.
Alonso explained that the county is now in an endemic situation for vaccinations, with 75 percent totally vaccinated, she said, explaining that people ages 60 to 79 are more than 80 percent fully vaccinated.
“They are very safe,” she said. “Unfortunately, these are not the ones going out into the community and spreading it, so this group who is going out is still in the very wrong numbers. We have only been able to increase these top numbers in the 5-to-9 and 10-to-11 age groups [by 1 percent]. The last time I showed you this, the 10-to-11 were a 2 percent increase. We are doing everything we can to continue to provide those vaccines for that young age group.”
She said people need to not be afraid of the pandemic but should take precautions, take care of one another, and continue to wear masks, wash hands and practice social distancing when appropriate.
“We must learn how to live in a pandemic instead of being alarmed all of the time,” Alonso said. “We’ve got to let the fear come down so that we can remain doing our job and doing what we have to do and carrying on with what we’re doing every day.”
Learn more about Palm Beach County’s efforts to battle the pandemic at www.pbcgov.com/coronavirus.