COVID-19 cases are dropping, but holiday surge could be coming, Palm Beach County’s top health official says

While COVID-19 cases continue to drop, Palm Beach County’s top health official warned there could be another potential surge during the holiday season.

Dr. Alina Alonso, the state health department director for Palm Beach County, told county commissioners on Tuesday that “we can’t let our guard down” and people need to remain vigilant despite cases and hospitalizations trending downward.

Palm Beach County reported a 17% reduction in COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people from the previous week, according to numbers from the state department of health. Additionally, the county’s daily positivity for the previous week was 6.5%. Health officials consider COVID under control when the positivity rate drops below 5%.

“We’re definitely seeing a very nice curve going down and we hope we can sustain that until at least the winter months,” Alonso said.

“We need to need to be prepared in case there’s another surge coming in the winter and the holidays approaching. The viruses from the southern hemisphere will migrate to the north during the winter as they always do, so we have to be ready and prepared.”

Alonso said vaccinations remain the key deterrent in slowing the spread of the virus and reducing hospitalizations. According to the county, 84% of the COVID-related hospitalizations are from unvaccinated people.

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In Palm Beach County 64% of people 12 and older are fully vaccinated.

Vaccine mandates, which have proven controversial, have helped increase vaccination numbers, but have also led to increased and “unnecessary” testing, Alonso said. While Florida has banned businesses from requiring vaccinations, employers can require unvaccinated workers to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing.

“The problem right now is with the huge controversy for people who don’t want to take the vaccine, it causes unnecessary testing for those who are taking up having to get tested and being in line with people who are sick and waiting to be tested,” Alonso said.

Still, Alonso said increased testing by businesses does have value in “catching someone who is asymptomatic or [someone] having symptoms they think are just allergies and coming to work sick.”

“The main reasons businesses are doing it is to stop the spread of the virus within their organizations, which then puts out entire departments at one time. It certainly that has been a rule in many of the hospitals for many years with other vaccines that are mandated, so it’s not unusual to ask health facilities and things like that to have mandated vaccines.

“It’s the same reason we have mandated vaccines in the schools to protect the children from measles and chickenpox.”

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