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'Nightmare is definitely not over:' Palm Beach County health director gives COVID-19 update

Dr. Alina Alonso believes omicron variant being underreported
Dr. Alina Alonso speaks to Palm Beach County commissioners about COVID-19, Dec. 21, 2021
Posted at 9:01 AM, Dec 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-21 17:15:25-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Palm Beach County's top health official provided an update on the surging number of COVID-19 cases Tuesday morning.

Dr. Alina Alonso, director of the Florida Department of Health of Palm Beach County, said COVID-19 cases are rising, but this wasn't a surprise.

"This was totally expected," Alonso said. "Actually, the increase happened a week later than expected."

From Dec. 10 to Dec. 16, Palm Beach County recorded 2,445 cases with the rate of positivity rising by 3.9% for a total of 6.5% new case positivity. The target rate is 5 percent.

The status report comes just days before Christmas and amid a surge in cases of the omicron variant, which now accounts for 73% of COVID-19 cases in the country.

Alonso said omicron only accounts for 2.9% of reported cases in Palm Beach County, but she believes that number is underreported.

RELATED: 5 things to know about omicron variant

New cases of COVID-19 in Florida have skyrocketed since Dec. 3 — increasing by 119%.

Alonso said COVID-19 hospitalizations are increasing, but currently stable in Palm Beach County.

Dr. Alina Alonso provides presentation of COVID-19 cases in Palm Beach County, Dec. 21, 2021
Dr. Alina Alonso gives a presentation to Palm Beach County commissioners on the latest COVID-19 surge, Dec. 21, 2021, in West Palm Beach, Fla.

She recommended that anyone experiencing symptoms get tested and stay home, citing omicron's higher rate of transmission.

"This is very important. You will spread this to many more people than before," Alonso said.

Alonso said vaccinations and boosters remain the most important tool to save lives, but monoclonal antibody treatment will soon be available at all county testing sites.

The testing sites will be closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas this week.

After Commissioner Maria Sachs thanked Alonso for her guidance during the "end of the pandemic," the doctor had some sobering words.

"The nightmare is definitely not over," Alonso said.