WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Palm Beach County's top health official on Tuesday said the county is "trending in the right direction" when it comes to COVID-19 cases.
Dr. Alina Alonso with the Florida Department of Health said Palm Beach County tallied 879 new COVID-19 cases during the week of Oct. 22 to 28, the county's second-lowest weekly case total since April of 2020.
During that same time, Palm Beach County's new case positivity rate dropped to 3%, and there were 59 cases per 100,000 people, down from 96 cases per 100,000 people two weeks ago.
The county remains in the "substantial" level of community transmission.
"We gotta keep going down," Alonso said. "The idea is that we go down as far as possible so that when we have our next wave in the winter, that we'll be able to have a small wave and not a large wave."
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Because of the declining cases, commissioners unanimously agreed that once Palm Beach County reaches a "moderate" level of community transmission and remains there for at least two weeks, members of the public — regardless of their vaccination status — no longer need to wear facial coverings inside county-owned and leased facilities.
"These masks have protected us. They have kept county business open. They have also kept a lot of businesses in our community open," County Administrator Verdenia Baker said.
Alonso said the Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County is gathering its resources and preparing for the ability to administer Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine to children ages 5 to 11.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration last week gave full authorization for the vaccine to be given to that age group, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is meeting Tuesday to make the same recommendation.
Once that happens and the CDC's director signs off on the decision, the vaccine can be given to kids in the 5-to-11-year-old age range.
"Many of the families are ready to get the vaccine. They've been anxious because their little kids are the ones left. Everybody else in their family is vaccinated. So they're very anxious to get this," Alonso said.
Alonso added the Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County has ordered additional doses of the Pfizer vaccine and its teams are ready to start inoculating more children.
In addition, Alonso said pediatricians in Palm Beach County are planning to expand their hours to allow children ages 5 to 11 years old to get vaccinated.
Shots will also be available at pharmacies and through the Health Care District of Palm Beach County's mobile vaccination unit, which Alonso said is planning to visit schools and set up permanent sites to vaccinate children.
"I recommend highly that people make appointments so they're not waiting in line," Alonso said. "There's no need to wait in line. There's plenty of vaccine."
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