WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Palm Beach County has a new tool to provide COVID-19 testing to residents in coronavirus hot spots, along with those in underserved communities.
Officials on Wednesday introduced the public to Hero, a 38-foot mobile testing vehicle operated by the Health Care District of Palm Beach County.
"There is a need to increase testing to our residents who lack transportation or the time to travel. A need to test families close to home," said Darcy Davis, the executive director and CEO of the Health Care District.
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Davis said Hero and its companion vehicles, Warrior and Scout, each have a nurse practitioner, registered nurse, and two medical assistants on board.
"Hero, Warrior, and Scout have workspace for staff to prepare test kits, IT equipment to connect our patients' medical records, refrigeration, and other features like exam rooms," Davis said.
Health officials said the Palm Beach County Emergency Operations Center will determine each week where Hero and Scout will be stationed, based on COVID-19 hot spots.
"They look at the hot spots and where we need to move into communities," Davis said. "Currently, Scout is spending three days a week at the South County Civic site, and Hero has been scheduled through next week at various sites."
Dr. Alina Alonso, the health director for Palm Beach County, said a few areas in Boca Raton have flared up with a "higher than usual" case load, which she attributes to a long-term care facility in the area.
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According to the latest numbers from the Florida Department of Health, there are 49,298 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 1,510 coronavirus-related deaths in Palm Beach County.
Alonso said the county's daily lab positivity rate for COVID-19 was 5.5% as of Monday, which is trending upward. Health officials aim to keep that rate below 5% because that allows for more effective contact tracing.
"While we're being cautious and paying very close attention to these numbers, there's no reason for panic and there's no reason for concern," Alonso said. "We need to be cautious."
Earlier this week, Alonso told county commissioners they may need to put "additional control measures" in place to stop the spread of the virus.
The health director urged residents on Wednesday to continue wearing face coverings, practice social distancing, wash and sanitize your hands frequently, avoid crowded spaces, and get a flu shot.
"Continue using your mask and social distancing so that we can keep our businesses and our economy going here in Palm Beach County," Alonso said.
Palm Beach County has extended its face mask mandate until 12:01 a.m. on Nov. 21.
Until that time, face coverings must be worn inside all public buildings, as well as outside when social distancing is not possible or not being practiced.