WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Palm Beach County's mask mandate will remain in place for at least another month, officials announced on Thursday.
The mandate, which requires people to wear face coverings inside businesses, government buildings, "public places where social distancing in accordance with CDC guidelines is not possible or not being practiced," as well as Palm Tran transit services, was due to expire on Sunday.
However, Mayor Dave Kerner said at a Thursday news conference the mask ordinance is being extended for at least 30 days.
"I do think, in my opinion, that there will be at some point in the near future, certainly not within the next 30 days, but at some point in the near future, we will repeal that mandate in this county," Kerner said.
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The mayor said county officials will reevaluate the mandate roughly 25 days from now to determine whether to extend it again, or repeal it outright.
"Even when we repeal the mask ordinance or executive order, that doesn't mean that you shouldn't be wearing a mask in public," Kerner said. "When we get to that point, whether it's seven days from now or 60 days from now, I still would expect this community to continue to be cautious and wear their masks."
Officials said the decision to extend the ordinance was based on local COVID-19 data, as well as guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to the latest numbers from the Florida Department of Health, there have been 137,132 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 2,704 coronavirus-related deaths in Palm Beach County.
County health director Dr. Alina Alonso said COVID-19 cases are "slowly creeping up" both locally and statewide.
Fifty-five% of new cases in Palm Beach County are among residents in the 15-to-54 age range.
"My message to the youth is please, stopping the spread of virus is now in your hands," Alonso said, urging all adults 18 and older to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
The Health Care District of Palm Beach County, which operates coronavirus vaccination sites at the South Florida Fairgrounds near West Palm Beach, South Florida Civic Center in west Delray Beach, and Burns Road Community Center in Palm Beach Gardens, is currently administering the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
Florida residents who are 16 and 17 are eligible for the Pfizer vaccine.
To make a vaccine appointment through the Health Care District, click here.
"I understand that we are fatigued with COVID. We all are," Kerner said. "We're fatigued with the masks. But we are, as I say, in the final chapter. Let's finish what we started strong."