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Palm Beach County health director expresses concerns with possibility of reopening playgrounds

29% of Palm Beach County children under 18 have tested positive for COVID-19, Dr. Alina Alonso says
Palm Beach County commissioners meet, July 7, 2020
Posted at 9:30 AM, Jul 07, 2020

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The health director of Palm Beach County expressed concerns on Tuesday with the possibility of reopening playgrounds throughout the county, claiming a move like that could put children and their caregivers at risk.

Dr. Alina Alonso said that, to date, more than 3,000 children in Palm Beach County under the age of 18 have been tested for COVID-19, and 29% of those test results have come back positive.

"That's a significant number, and to me that's a significant number of children that will have consequences going down the pike," Alonso said at Tuesday's county commission meeting, adding that one of those consequences could be chronic asthma.

When asked by commissioners about whether Palm Beach County should reopen public playgrounds, Alonso expressed hesitation.

"We don’t know what those consequences will be," Alonso said. "I think there's concern on both ends of not only how that will spread to others, but also on the child. So I would say I have concerns in both areas."

The health director added that just because children are not showing symptoms of COVID-19 doesn't mean it's not affecting their bodies.

"When we take X-rays of these kids that are asymptomatic sometimes, there are changes in the lung," Alonso said. "At a young age, that is very significant."

The health director raised concerns about multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, a condition that can develop weeks after a child has tested positive for COVID-19.

Symptoms of MIS-C include a fever, rash, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and more.

"It's something that we don't understand yet why it's occurring," Alonso said. "We have had people with seizures, we have had people with clots in their lungs."

Alonso added that the coronavirus is "going to be around for a very long time," and Palm Beach County's primary focus should continue to be educating the public.

"Our recommendation is we continue to broadly give out the message of distancing, washing hands, staying home if you're sick, wearing your masks," Alonso said. "We gotta stay at it, because people get bored."


Tuesday's meeting came two weeks to the day after commissioners voted unanimously to mandate masks in public places throughout Palm Beach County.

During Tuesday's meeting, a woman refused to wear a mask multiple times inside commission chambers, causing Mayor Dave Kerner to warn her to put her face covering on.

When she wouldn't abide by the rules, Kerner asked her to leave the meeting.

"You're not willing to wear the mask, and I can now clearly see that you're not," Kerner said. "This is not a venue for protest by not wearing a mask. It's not Facebook, it's not Instagram. You don't get to have breakdowns and blowouts here today. This is the real world."


Woman removed from Palm Beach County meeting for not wearing mask

According to the latest numbers from the Florida Department of Health, there are 17,638 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Palm Beach County, including 563 deaths.