At the Palm Beach County Commission meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 4, County Administrator Verdenia Baker announced the pending receipt of about 45,000 at-home COVID-19 test kits from the State of Florida.
The kits will be distributed at county test centers, which are reporting about 30 percent positive results and waiting lines of up to two hours or more.
“It is crucial to us that we get tested, but more importantly that we get vaccinated,” Baker said. “In light of the recent demand for COVID-19 testing in Palm Beach County, I want to share with you today that Palm Beach County is working with our partners, the Palm Beach County Health Department, the state, as well as the Healthcare District that we have maintained a significant number of testing locations and opening of public and private testing sites in the county.”
During the most recent surge over the past two weeks, three more testing sites have been opened, she said.
“Nine testing sites are now open in Palm Beach County,” she said, adding that more than 160 private testing sites are open and listed on the county web site at www.pbcgov.org/coronavirus.
“We want to encourage people not to just go to public sites, but to also utilize the private sites,” Baker said, adding that the county is about to receive private, in-home testing kits. “Miami-Dade and Broward [counties] both received theirs last week. It is my understanding that we do not have them in hand as of yet, but we are on for a total of about 45,000 test kits that will come from the state.”
She added that about half were due in that day.
Baker explained that the county is preparing to make the home test kits available at its testing sites, adding that she was looking for board direction to purchase additional home test kits.
“We are aware that the federal government will be opening a portal,” she said. “You can contact the federal government, and they will ship them to your house, in addition to the ones that we will distribute at our distribution sites, once we get them from the state. I have requested 250,000 from the state. Hopefully, those 45,000 they are committed to thus far is just the beginning of that 250,000.”
Palm Beach County Mayor Robert Weinroth pointed out that the at-home testing kits would not supply recorded results that the county gets when people go to public sites.
“That’s going to be a weakness,” Weinroth said. “People also may or may not get the most accurate results as compared to drive-up results.”
He asked if more funding could be made available to purchase kits than the almost $200,000 available to the county administrator currently. County Attorney Denise Coffman said more money could be allocated through abbreviated federal guidelines similar to FEMA, but it would still have to go through a process to see that the guidelines are followed.
Assistant County Administrator Todd Bonlarron said that the county testing sites are busy.
“We have been working with the municipalities where they are located,” Bonlarron said. “We’ve had pretty long lines at most of our sites.”
He added that the numbers have gone up exponentially at most of the testing sites, with waiting times of up to two-and-a-half hours. “We have a lot of people out there looking to get testing,” Bonlarron said.
Commissioner Melissa McKinlay made a motion to declare that an emergency situation exists in regard to testing in Palm Beach County, and to authorize the county administrator and staff to purchase at-home testing kits, spending up to $500,000 at an estimated $25 each. The motion carried 7-0.