WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Palm Beach County is no longer under a state of emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Because of the improving state of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations locally, county commissioners on Tuesday voted unanimously to end Palm Beach County's latest state of emergency, which had been in effect since Aug. 17.
That means all 14 hospitals in Palm Beach County no longer have to file a daily report for medical statistics like total hospital bed availability, adult and pediatric ICU bed availability, ventilator availability, as well as total COVID-19 positive patients and the number of COVID-19 patients who are fully vaccinated, among other figures.
"Our positivity rates have dropped. I don't think that we need to burden our hospitals with providing that data," Commissioner Melissa McKinlay said.
Palm Beach County health director Dr. Alina Alonso Alonso said the COVID-19 situation "slowly continues to improve" in the county.
Between Oct. 8 and 14, there were 1,430 new COVID-19 cases in Palm Beach County, down dramatically from the peak of roughly 9,000 cases in August.
During that same week, Alonso said Palm Beach County's new case positivity rate dropped to 4.1%, and there were 96 cases per 100,000 people, which is down 66 cases from two weeks ago.
In addition, Palm Beach County has dropped from a "high" to "substantial" level of community transmission.
"We're well on our way to continue to go down," Alonso said.
Health officials said the goal is for Palm Beach County to reach a "moderate" level of community transmission — which would entail having fewer than 50 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people over a seven-day period — by the time we reach an expected "winter spike" in cases around the holiday season.
"We have to hopefully get to moderate so that it goes down enough so that when we do spike, it goes up just a little bit," Alonso said.
When it comes to hospital data, Alonso said COVID-19 hospitalizations in Palm Beach County are decreasing, with the number of COVID patients admitted to local hospitals equal to those discharged, according to the latest figures from Oct. 17.
Alonso added that 77% of COVID-19 hospital patients on that date were not fully vaccinated, down from 84% two weeks ago.
"I am optimistic that because of all the vaccinations that we have done that we won't see the big spike that we saw in July going really, really high and putting the surge on the hospitals," Alonso said.
According to the latest numbers from the Florida Department of Health, 65% of Palm Beach County residents ages 12 and older are now fully vaccinated against the coronavirus as of Oct. 14.
"It is not a bulletproof vaccine," Alonso said. "Until we have enough people vaccinated against any virus, it will take global herd immunity for these things to go away and not see them anymore. This COVID virus is gonna be around for a very long time, and people are gonna have to get used to this affecting lives."
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