Palm Beach County declares state of emergency as COVID cases continue to surge

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Palm Beach County has declared a state of emergency as COVID-19 cases continue to surge throughout the state.

The order, which was unanimously approved during Tuesday’s County Commission meeting, would require private hospitals to send daily COVID reports to the county regarding ICU capacity, the number of COVID patients being treated and the number of beds available for COVID patients.

Commissioners did not discuss implementing any types of COVID restrictions on residents or businesses in Palm Beach County.

The State Department of Health reported over 9,100 new cases in Palm Beach County over the past week. That’s a significant jump from a month ago when the county reported fewer than 1,400 cases during a one-week span.

Lakeside has been trying to find alternate locations to send critically ill patients, but nearby hospitals are overwhelmed with their own COVID-19 patient volume, said Robin Kish, spokeswoman for the Health Care District of Palm Beach.

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County Commissioner Maria Sachs supported the emergency order, saying she was “angry” after hearing about the Lakeside situation.

“[There should never] be someone in critical care in our beautiful, wealthy county and they can not get an ICU bed,” Sachs said. “What we have in our hands is a crisis. A crisis that needs to be fixed. Maybe this is a good wake-up call with COVID.”

Darcy Davis, CEO of the Palm Beach County Health Care District, said receiving daily reports from private hospitals regarding bed availability for COVID-positive patients would give the county much-needed clarity in allocating medical resources.

“In a hurricane or an emergency situation and even today, there’s a dashboard that shows available beds,” Davis said. “The problem is that’s a little bit deceiving because those aren’t beds necessarily for a COVID-positive patient.”

Dr. Alina Alonso, the state health department director for Palm Beach County, said the real-time reporting would be useful, “not only for the visibility we need from different [medical] sectors, but for the public to understand the critical point that we are in right now.”

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