WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Calling it a "big concern for the entire state," Palm Beach County's health director warned on Tuesday that state funding for the critical task of contact tracing is due to expire in a month.
Dr. Alina Alonso told Palm Beach County commissioners that state funding will end on Nov. 30.
"Very concerning because this doesn't look like it's going down. It looks like it's gonna be going up," Alonso said. "And we do not want to get back into the situation that we were before."
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Contact tracing, in which health officials work to determine who came in contact with a COVID-19 infected person -- within 6 feet for at least 15 minutes in a 24-hour period -- is important to limiting the spread of the virus.
Alonso said the Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County is talking to the state weekly to determine where they can get additional funding from, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
"We are prepared to continue having these [contact tracers] working," Alonso said. "We want to hire more people. We want to keep the contact tracing effective."
Palm Beach County Administrator Verdenia Baker said the county has allocated $1 million in CARES Act funding for contact tracing.
According to the latest numbers from the Florida Department of Health, there are 51,172 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 1,565 coronavirus-related deaths in Palm Beach County.
Alonso said the daily positivity rate for COVID-19 in Palm Beach County on Oct. 25 was 6.18%, which is trending upward. Health officials aim to keep that number below 5% because it allows for more effective contact tracing.
According to data from Johns Hopkins University, there were nationwide trends in April, July, and October that showed sharp spikes in new COVID-19 cases as more sectors of the economy reopened.
"Of special note here is the idea of flattening the curve," Alonso said. "When we say that, curves need to go all the way down when we flatten a curve. And unfortunately what's happening is we're not flattening it long enough, and therefor the virus ends up spiking."
SPECIAL COVERAGE: Coronavirus
Tuesday's county commission meeting came on the same day that Commissioner Melissa McKinlay announced she's tested positive for COVID-19.
McKinlay posted on social media that she's quarantining per CDC guidelines and is working with health officials on contract tracing.
I appreciate your positive thoughts.....thank you. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/BaV6tB3qmM— Melissa McKinlay (@VoteMcKinlay) October 27, 2020
Mayor Dave Kerner announced at the start of Tuesday's meeting that McKinlay was attending the meeting by audio and was not physically present.