WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Urging extreme caution moving forward, Palm Beach County's health director told commissioners that social distancing must continue for the next year to limit the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
"I’ve seen everything from A to Z. I’d like to say Anthrax to Zika, but this is a doozy," Dr. Alina Alonso said at Tuesday's county commission meeting.
According to the latest numbers from the Florida Department of Health, there are 9,262 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Palm Beach County, including 438 deaths.
While Alonso admitted that "closing is not an option" when it comes to shutting down Palm Beach County's economy again, she did say commissioners need to slow down with reopening businesses and sectors of the economy, and increase public education and messaging about COVID-19.
"We need to implement a strict social distancing plan," Alonso said, adding that social distancing is the best weapon there is against the virus.
Commissioners debated a measure on Tuesday that would require people to wear face coverings inside Palm Beach County public buildings. However, they did not vote on the issue and instead decided to revisit it at next week's meeting on June 23.
"We don't need eight people to tell us how to live our lives," one resident said during public comment.
"Masks should not be mandatory," another resident said. "It doesn't protect against the virus."
The Florida Department of Health said the number of new cases of COVID-19 in Palm Beach County has more than tripled from the same time last month.
While county officials said hospitalizations are under control, infectious disease specialist Dr. Leslie Diaz said that's a false narrative.
"They need to get the numbers right," Diaz told WPTV. "I invite any administrator, any governor, anybody that wants to come and join me for a day, and then they can talk. It is not true. The numbers are rising."
Earlier this month, Palm Beach County leaders sent a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis, asking that the county be added to Phase Two of Florida's reopening plan.
As of Tuesday, the governor has not responded to that request yet.