WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Palm Beach County will punish businesses that violate emergency orders regarding the deadly coronavirus and social distancing, officials said on Friday.
Mayor Dave Kerner announced the formation of the COVID Education and Compliance Team, which is made up of local law enforcement agencies, the Florida Department of Health, code enforcement, and more.
In addition to educating the public about the dangers of COVID-19, Mayor Kerner said the team will also enforce the current state and local emergency orders regarding the coronavirus.
"There are bad actors in this community," said Mayor Kerner.
Palm Beach County is currently under Phase One of Florida's reopening plan, meaning restaurants and retail shops can operate at 50% capacity. However, large venues like movie theaters must remain closed, as well as bars.
"We will utilize the full force of the law," said Mayor Kerner. "Notices to appear, regulatory restrictions, pulling relevant licenses, and in the most rare circumstances, criminal prosecution."
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Calling it a "proactive effort," the mayor said the team will conduct random spot inspections on businesses throughout Palm Beach County.
"They're gonna do it across city boundaries and municipal boundaries, and no one is ever gonna know when they're coming and at what time," said Kerner.
Dr. Alina Alonso, the health director for Palm Beach County, said that before businesses began reopening in the county on May 11, Palm Beach County was averaging 68 cases of COVID-19 per day.
Alonso said that number jumped to an average of 220 cases per day as of June 1.
"As we opened and people started feeling better, we started loosening up and everybody felt a little better. Then the virus had more people to attack and make positive. That is what's going on," said Alonso.
Alonso added that our best defenses against the "silent infection" continue to be social distancing, wearing face coverings in public, washing your hands and surfaces frequently, and keeping your hands away from your face.
The health director urged businesses to abide by the current rules and regulations regarding social distancing.
"You agreed to do certain things, and some of those certain things were social distancing and keeping your patrons, and most importantly, your employees safe," said Alonso.
According to the latest numbers from the Florida Department of Health, there are 10,116 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Palm Beach County, including 464 deaths.