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Palm Beach County leaders discuss entering Phase Two, reopening brick-and-mortar schools

'I would like to see more time,' county's health director says
Posted at 11:42 AM, Aug 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-25 17:37:18-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The health director for Palm Beach County says the county shouldn't rush to enter Phase Two of Florida's reopening plan, especially when it comes to schools.

On Tuesday, county commissioners asked Dr. Alina Alonso if it's safe for Palm Beach County to enter Phase Two, which would allow brick-and-mortar schools to reopen.

"I'm always gonna tell you that I would like to see more time," Alonso said. "I don't want to look like any of the counties that have had to close down a school."


Alina Alonso talks about reopening schools

Alonso said when brick-and-mortar schools reopen, there needs to be a better system for COVID-19 testing to determine which students are actually infected with the virus and need to be quarantined.

"Think of kids in school. They all have sniffles," Alonso said. "We cannot be putting every child out that has a sniffle. We're gonna tell the parents, don't send your child to school if they're sick. But a child doesn't need to stay home for 14 days if they have a cold."

SPECIAL COVERAGE: Back To School | Coronavirus

The 2020-21 academic year for the School District of Palm Beach County is scheduled to begin on Monday, Aug. 31 with all students taking part in distance learning from home.

Under the school district's reopening plan, "once Palm Beach County moves from Phase 1 to Phase 2 of recovery, students in early learning programs can physically return to District-operated schools if their parents so choose."

That means once brick-and-mortar schools reopen, parents can choose whether to send their students back or continue to keep them at home.

On Tuesday, Commissioner Melissa McKinlay asked Alonso if one week is enough time for brick-and-mortar schools to prepare to reopen.

"One week is a blink," Alonso said. "I think those are conversations that we have to do a lot more talking."

The health director admitted there will likely be a "small uptick" in COVID-19 cases once brick-and-mortar schools reopen.

"They have to have things in their schools ready to be able to handle the kids," Alonso said. "I want to think more about the process and what we're going to be looking at in order to [reopen brick-and-mortar schools]."

RELATED: School District of Palm Beach County provides back-to-school update

Earlier in Tuesday's meeting, Alonso shared some optimistic news about the COVID-19 pandemic, saying the county's daily positivity rate has dropped below 5%.

"We are definitely on a downward trajectory," Alonso said. "I'm sure this is gonna continue to go down as we continue all the efforts that we're doing here in Palm Beach County."

Commissioners said that next week, they'll vote on whether to send a letter to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, asking him to allow tattoo parlors and tanning salons in Palm Beach County to reopen.