GREENACRES, Fla. — Palm Beach County leaders expressed concerns on Thursday about the increase in coronavirus cases in the county, even suggesting it may be difficult to move forward with reopening more areas of the local economy.
"Our numbers are starting to increase. We knew they would increase slightly, but they are increasing more than anticipated," said Palm Beach County Administrator Verdenia Baker. "If these numbers continue to climb, we're not gonna be able to move forward, and we definitely don't want to move backwards."
Speaking at a new COVID-19 testing site at the Greenacres Community Center, officials said it's more important than ever for people to wear face coverings in public and practice social distancing.
"We don't look in the rearview mirror," said Mayor Dave Kerner. "Am I concerned about the numbers going up? Of course I'm concerned. Did I anticipate numbers going up? Absolutely. If we open up the economy, it's a pretty practical thought process to think we're gonna see some community spread."
Kerner added, however, that the community spread is being managed correctly in Palm Beach County and the rate of hospitalizations and intensive care admissions continue to trend downward.
"That means our most vulnerable are being protected," said Kerner. "We're not gonna stand around and say we made a mistake and cry about it. We're gonna pick ourselves up and move forward."
Last week, Kerner and Baker sent a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis, asking that Palm Beach County be allowed to enter Phase Two of Florida's reopening plan.
Under Phase Two, which excludes Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties for now, bars and entertainment venues like movie theaters are allowed to reopen.
However, Palm Beach County does not want standalone bars to reopen, only those that are inside restaurants.
Kerner said on Thursday he has not heard from DeSantis directly about the request to join Phase Two, but he is in contact with the governor's staff.
"The chief of staff did promise me that they would respond in due course, and I would expect a response any day," said Kerner.
According to the latest numbers from the Florida Department of Health, there are 7,887 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Palm Beach County, an increase of more than 200 cases from Wednesday.
"The virus is still here. It has not gone away," said Dr. Alino Alonso, the health director for Palm Beach County. "It is still affecting many people. There is still community spread."
Officials spoke on Thursday at a new coronavirus testing site in Greenacres, a community that's recently been considered a hot spot for the virus.
The city is offering free testing from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Greenacres Community Center, located at 501 Swain Boulevard, in partnership with the Health Care District of Palm Beach County.
Appointments are not necessary and you don't need to be a Greenacres resident to get tested. Those tested will receive a phone call with their results in about five days.
On Wednesday night, U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel held a virtual discussion with community leaders in areas like Greenacres, Palm Springs, Lake Worth Beach, and Belle Glade about containing the virus in these newly identified hot spots.