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Palm Beach County leaders say 'hope' may be 30 days away in coronavirus fight

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Posted at 1:03 PM, Apr 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-08 06:16:14-04

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Palm Beach County leaders delivered some of their most optimistic news yet on Tuesday about the spread of the deadly coronavirus, suggesting that social distancing within the community seems to be working.

"In the next, maybe 30 days or so, we could actually see some hope at the end of the tunnel," said Dr. Alina Alonso, the health director for the county. "At least a glimmer of a light, perhaps."

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Speaking at a new coronavirus testing site at the South County Civic Center in Delray Beach, Alonso said the latest data shows that the number of new COVID-19 cases in Palm Beach County has started to slowly come down.

"That is very encouraging," said Dr. Alonso. "If we can keep that up, we can keep this curve flat so that we do not overwhelm our hospitals, our ICUs, our law enforcement, our firefighters, and everybody else that's so involved in this heroic effort."

"What we're trying to do seems to be working to a certain degree, that's flattening this curve," said Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner.

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FULL NEWS CONFERENCE: Palm Beach County leaders talk about 'flattening the curve'

In medical terms, "flattening the curve" refers to spreading out the number of new cases of an illness over a longer period of time, so that health care workers aren't overwhelmed by a sudden surge of patients.

In the case of COVID-19, the "curve" of new patients has been sharp, according to health officials, which has put a tremendous strain on medical workers.

"If those numbers start coming down, then we can be at either a flat curve or a curve starting to go down," said Dr. Alonso.

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According to the latest numbers from the Florida Department of Health, there are 1,136 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Palm Beach County.

The county leads Florida with 63 coronavirus-related deaths, health officials said.

Dr. Alonso said the death rate is higher in Palm Beach County because of the ages of residents.

"We have 23.9 percent of our population is over the age of 65," said Alonso. "So it makes sense it's gonna be higher for those individuals."

County leaders agreed that while the numbers are encouraging, it's more important than ever to continue practicing social distancing whenever possible, and only leave your home for essential services and activities.

RELATED: What Florida's 'stay at home' order means for residents

"I know we want to be out there doing things physical, recreational, and I know there are ways to do that safely," said Kerner. "We're not to that point yet. If we keep this track up, I see very positive things for Palm Beach County in the near future."

"It is a huge sacrifice for everyone, no question about it," said Alonso. "But it's a sacrifice that you're saving a grandmother, an aunt, or another person that you may not even know."

Palm Beach County School District students are doing virtual learning until further notice.