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As new COVID-19 testing, vaccine site opens, Palm Beach County mayor hints at hospital capacity concerns

Pandemic has become war on unvaccinated, Mayor Dave Kerner says
'Free COVID-19 Testing' sign outside COVID-19 testing and vaccination site at Mid County Senior Center, Aug. 6, 2021
Posted at 4:57 PM, Aug 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-06 17:11:19-04

PALM SPRINGS, Fla. — As COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the state, vaccinations are also going up. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows that, as of Wednesday, 38,805 people were tested for COVID-19 during the last seven days in Palm Beach County.

While the delta variant continues to increase the case count across the state and in the county, the Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County has opened an additional testing and vaccine site in Palm Springs.

It was just at the end of May when the Health Care District of Palm Beach County closed its last mass vaccination site to go on the road with mobile vaccine initiatives. Now, the county health department is seeing a need for a fixed site to add access for COVID-19 tests and vaccines.

The first day of the new site at the Mid County Senior Center on Lake Worth Road was slow to start as word of the new testing and vaccine site is just getting out.

sign pointing toward COVID-19 testing and vaccination site at Mid County Senior Center, Aug. 6, 2021
A sign directs people toward Palm Beach County's newest COVID-19 testing and vaccination site, Aug. 6, 2021, at the Mid County Senior Center in Palm Springs, Fla.

"When they mentioned here, I was very happy because I used to volunteer here, so I know the place," Daniel Meighan said Friday.

Meighan brought his 14-year-old with him to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

"He's going back to school, also high school, on Tuesday," Meighan said.

Vaccines and testing for COVID-19 have been widely available in the private sector at pharmacies, but with the rise of the delta variant, county government is jumping in again.

"There's a very strong surge of COVID-19 with the delta variant, both here in this county and throughout the nation," Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner said. "We wanted to make sure that we had all of the options available for our constituents."

Kerner said all eyes right now are on hospitals and the overwhelming number of COVID-19 admissions. He hopes that by the health department offering an additional site with free tests and vaccines, people will have the resources they need to stay safe.

"There is a way to get out of this way of life and it is reaching that herd immunity," Kerner said. "So, I trust the science. I hope that those that are still on the fence about it continue to do their due diligence and research, and hopefully we'll get to a point in the near future where we don't have to worry about COVID-19."

The mayor said there will likely be a Monday briefing on what hospitals in the county are facing right now.

"Well, there are certainly some capacity concerns," Kerner said. "Right now we have elective procedures going on in the county and the hospitals. That's a decision that the medical directors have made. But we've seen it get to a point in Miami-Dade and Broward (counties), I think, and in Orlando where they are not doing those elective procedures. We don't want to get to that point."

WATCH: Mayor discusses COVID-19 testing, vaccinations, hospital capacities

Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner discusses COVID-19 testing, vaccinations, hospital capacities

When asked if the county is considering opening a field hospital should capacity at area hospitals become an issue, Kerner didn't rule it out.

"The one thing I've learned about COVID-19 and emergency operations in general is never say never," he said. "We're not there right now. I don't foresee it happening in the near future, but I don't want to say never. The reality is, if we get to that point, if this government, the governments in the state, throughout the nation, we're going to do what needs to be done to ensure the public health. I hope it doesn't come to that, but we are well prepared."

The mayor also said he does not foresee the county's Emergency Operations Center moving back up to level 2 partial activation. Currently, it is at level 3 enhanced monitoring.

"I don't foresee that in the future," Kerner said. "I hate to put it this way, but really this COVID-19 pandemic has become a war on the unvaccinated and so, right now, the concerns that we have are really in the hospitals. Those of us that are vaccinated or if you're not vaccinated, you know how to socially distance, you know how to wear a mask, but for those that are getting infected, I think our resources and our expertise as a county will go to assisting hospitals if they reach that capacity, and that's a big concern."