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Palm Beach County health officials target The Glades for more COVID-19 vaccinations

Belle Glade, Pahokee, South Bay have 'lower numbers' of vaccinations, health director says
In some areas of The Glades, the closest Publix is at least 25 miles away, officials say.jpg
Posted at 12:57 PM, Jul 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-16 18:46:48-04

BELLE GLADE, Fla. — CareerSource Palm Beach County was forced to temporarily close one of its centers this week after three employees tested positive for COVID-19.

Tom Veenstra, the company's vice president of administration, said the West Career Center, located at 1085 South Main Street in Belle Glade, will reopen on Monday.

The three employees who tested positive are under quarantine, and the center was cleaned and sanitized on Thursday.

One of the infected employees "works in a relatively isolated area at the back of the office with no in-person interaction with clients which helped to contain any possible exposure to an extremely small internal group," according to Veenstra.

"We screen all staff and visitors daily and encourage using masks," Veenstra said in a written statement to WPTV. "Our priority – first and foremost – is the health and well-being of our teammates along with our clients. Staff in quarantine must be medically cleared before returning to work."

While the West Career Center is closed, CareerSource will provide services at the Belle Glade Library, located at 725 Northwest 4th Street. Virtual services will continue to be available online by clicking here, or by calling 561-340-1060.

RELATED: Palm Beach County health director 'concerned' with COVID-19 Delta variant, urges vaccinations

Palm Beach County health director Dr. Alina Alonso said Tuesday the western communities of Belle Glade, Pahokee, and South Bay are three areas where officials are concentrating their efforts to increase COVID-19 vaccinations.

According to Alonso, those communities have "lower numbers" in terms of vaccinations between December 2020 and June 2021.

In Belle Glade, 7,377 people ages 16 and older -- or 44.6% of the town's population for that age group -- received the vaccine during that six-month period.

In Pahokee, 2,275 people (37.5%) were vaccinated, and in South Bay, 1,967 people (35.8%) received their shots.

"Those are our spots that we're concentrating to go out and vaccinating in those areas as much as possible," Alonso said.

COVID-19 vaccination data between Dec. 2020 and June 2021 from the Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County.jpg
COVID-19 vaccination data between Dec. 2020 and June 2021 from the Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County.

Alonso admitted, however, that between July 2 and 8, Belle Glade, Pahokee, and South Bay averaged between eight and 13 new COVID-19 cases, which she said was on the "low end."

"The efforts have to be on vaccinations. There's no question about it," Alonso said. "We gotta get the word out to vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate."


Dr. Alina Alonso talks low COVID-19 vaccination rates in Belle Glade

The ongoing efforts to reach western Palm Beach County residents include the Florida Department of Health and Health Care District of Palm Beach County deploying mobile units to administer the COVID-19 vaccine at pop-up sites.

In addition, residents can get vaccinated at the C.L. Brumback Health Center, located at 38754 State Road 80 in Belle Glade.

The Health Care District is also partnering with the School District of Palm Beach County to offer vaccinations for anyone 12 and older at the West Technical Education Center, located at 2625 Northwest 16th Street in Belle Glade.

"We want to make sure that anybody that wants a vaccine in Palm Beach County can get one," Alonso said. "We want vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate. That's the only way we can keep this COVID down and keep people safe so that it doesn't get to the big surge we had the last time."

"We have families that have been impacted due to COVID. Whole families are sick now, individual people in the family are sick," said Tammy Jackson-Moore, a community activist for The Glades

With COVID cases rising across the country, health officials said unvaccinated people are leading to the increase and they're putting themselves at risk.

"We still have quite a bit of vaccine hesitancy here in our community," said Jackson-Moore.

Jackson-Moore said she's seeing friends and family members getting infected, and almost every person has not received the COVID vaccine.

"So we're seeing that family members are now coming up saying, I want the vaccine because I see what my loved one is going through, so I want to take the vaccine," Jackson-Moore said.

Jackson-Moore is still encouraging and educating folks, sending them to Walgreens and the local pharmacy, saying some protection is better than no protection.

"We're still boots on the ground every single day talking to people about the vaccine and how critically important it is for people to be vaccinated," Jackson-Moore said.

For a full list of mobile vaccination sites from the Health Care District of Palm Beach County, click here.

To see all the COVID-19 vaccination locations in Palm Beach County, click here.