Officials raise concerns about Palm Beach COVID-19 cases as county delays rental reopening

Infected patient in quarantine lying in bed in hospital, coronavirus concept.
Top health officials are seeing troubling signs about the virus's spread.

Palm Beach County has already delayed reopening short-term rentals due to COVID-19 concerns. Top health officials say the latest spike may continue hampering the region’s reopening plan.

The state has seen a bump in total new cases in recent days, which is in part a function of the state’s expanded testing capacity.

Alina Alonso, director of the Florida Department of Health’s Palm Beach County branch, warned Tuesday that the county is also seeing rises in hospitalizations and the percentage of tests coming back positive. Those two metrics are not a function of increased testing capabilities and could be signs the spread is back on the upswing in the region.

On Monday, Vice Mayor Robert Weinroth said Surgeon General Scott Rivkees had “been concerned” about the rise. Rivkees expressed those concerns in a conversation with County Administrator Verdenia Baker about the county’s reopening plan with regard to bars, gyms and retailers.

Palm Beach County had planned to once again allow short-term rentals as of Monday, June 15. Last Friday, the county decided to delay that plan amid concerns about the state’s positivity rate, which has surpassed 10% multiple times in recent weeks.

From June 2-8, the state’s overall positivity rate sat between 2.5% and 4.5%. That number has reached at least 5.38% in five out of the last seven days. Its lowest number in the span was 4.42%, which is still near the peak of the previous week.

Palm Beach’s overall positivity rate sits at 8%. That’s just below Miami-Dade’s 9% rate. In recent months, Miami-Dade County has consistently led the state in overall positive tests. Far more people have been tested there than in Palm Beach, however. Palm Beach places third in confirmed tests overall.

Local officials within Miami-Dade are also applying recent data to a cautious reopening approach. Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez both said they will not yet pull back their reopening plans. They did agree, however, not to move forward with any additional measures due to the recent rise in cases.

“There are major concerns,” Suarez said. “Now is not the time to let your guard down.”

South Florida has consistently lagged behind the rest of the state in terms of reopening. That’s because Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties hold the top three spots, respectively, in terms of confirmed cases so far.

None of the three counties has attempted to revert back to shutdown mode. South Florida officials will, however, continue to monitor trends in hospitalizations and the positivity rate in assessing the future of the region’s reopening.

“We’re kind of sounding the alarm,” Mayor Suarez said.

Ryan Nicol

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to ryan.t.nicol@gmail.com.



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