As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Palm Beach County, residents are wondering what precautions will be taken to stop the virus’ spread and if that will include another shutdown of businesses and gatherings.
“My intention is to not move backwards, but I’m also not ready to move forward,” District 6 County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay said. “Let’s give this mask order a little bit of time to work.”
McKinlay said she believes reinstituting county-wide closures would have disastrous economic impacts. Instead, county officials are looking toward the newly enacted mask mandate and a renewed push from authorities to enforce existing social distancing rules to help curb rising coronavirus numbers.
County leaders and Gov. Ron DeSantis are not moving forward with a plan to move Palm Beach County into a Phase 2 reopening.
“We’re in a true second wave,” McKinlay said. “With this rise comes a little bit more fear. I think people will be more responsive to following the guidelines.”
Deaths in Palm Beach County are still low. But new cases, positive tests and hospitalizations are all on the rise, according to a presentation from county health officials at a Tuesday county commission meeting.
When counties began reopening, DeSantis announced a framework for how counties should advance to different stages of reopening. Under that framework, reported flu-like symptoms, reported COVID-like symptoms, COVID cases, and positive tests all had to be decreasing before a county can continue to reopen. Additionally, hospital and testing capacity had to be robust.
Dr. Alina Alonso with the Florida Department of Health assured county leaders Tuesday that hospital and test capacity were in good shape, but warned the county does not meet any of the other requirements listed.
Prior to the spike in cases, county commissioners asked the governor to allow Palm Beach County to enter into a reduced version of a Phase 2 reopening, which would increase capacity at restaurants and shops and allow places like movie theaters to reopen.
But due to a recent spike in cases, the governor’s office has not yet approved the county’s request. McKinlay says she considers that reopening request to be “paused.”