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Palm Beach County entering 'last chapter' of COVID-19 pandemic, mayor says

Mayor Dave Kerner calls COVID-19 vaccine 'light at the end of the tunnel'
Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner delivers his _State of the County_ address on March 3, 2021.jpg
Posted at 12:32 PM, Mar 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-03 15:13:53-05

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Saying we are approaching the "last chapter" of the COVID-19 pandemic, Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner on Wednesday highlighted the latest ongoing efforts to vaccinate as many residents as possible against the deadly virus.

During a virtual "State of the County" address, Kerner admitted to a frustrating and slow rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine at the end of last year, but said operations are picking up.

"We're all starting to look at the vaccine as the light at the end of the tunnel," Kerner said.


Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner delivers 'State of the County' address

According to the latest numbers from the Florida Department of Health, 267,398 people have received the COVID-19 vaccine in Palm Beach County, which is second only to Miami-Dade County in the state. 57% of those vaccinated are 65 and older.

"We have a pretty diverse set of institutions that are executing on this very important, sort of, last chapter," Kerner said.

Those locations include 67 Publix pharmacies throughout Palm Beach County, along with the county health department and Health Care District, and mass vaccination sites at the South Florida Fairgrounds, South Florida Civic Center, and Burns Road Community Center.

Currently, anyone 65 and older, health care personnel with direct patient contact, long-term care facility residents and staff members, as well as sworn law enforcement officers, firefighters, and K-12 school employees who are 50 and older, along with anyone "determined by a physician to be extremely vulnerable to COVID-19" can receive the vaccine in Palm Beach County.

Kerner said he has no control over which groups are eligible to be vaccinated, as that is a policy decision from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

"We're heavily involved in the actual distribution, putting the shot in arm," Kerner said. "But I have no control, and the board has no control over those policy issues. Those come directly from Gov. DeSantis."

During Wednesday's "State of the County" address, Kerner outlined all of Palm Beach County's efforts over the last year to combat the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

Those efforts included putting $261 million in federal CARES Act funding toward things like COVID-19 testing, mortgage, rent, and utility assistance, food insecurity, and help for small businesses.

The county also partnered with the School District of Palm Beach County to build a 50 square-mile WiFi Mesh Network, which will provide free high-speed, high-quality Internet to more than 25,000 students who have limited access at home.

"There are a lot of people in this community and there are a lot of people in this world that don't have access to wireless Internet, and that means they don't have access to education, particularly in the time of the pandemic," Kerner said.

According to the Florida Department of Health, there have been 121,652 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 2,490 coronavirus-related deaths in Palm Beach County since the start of the pandemic last year.