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West Palm Beach mayor makes urgent plea to Palm Beach County for more testing kits

'We are trying to save lives,' says Mayor James
West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James
Posted at 10:13 AM, May 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-01 17:16:54-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Mayor Keith James made an urgent plea to Palm Beach County officials to provide more coronavirus testing kits during a news conference held Friday morning.

James said the city’s new mobile coronavirus testing sites have tested 400 people in two weeks. However, he said they need to expand the program to ensure all communities of color are thoroughly tested, calling it “essential that these communities receive more testing.”

"I call on our partners at Palm Beach County and the Palm Beach County Department of Health to please, please help us obtain more testing kits. I personally have made the ask of the county administrator and the county mayor several times. Each time I get nothing more than empty promises," said James.

The mayor said the city's firefighters and personnel are "ready to go door to door if necessary," they just need the kits.

"Please, Palm Beach County, I implore you, get us these testing kits. We are trying to save lives," said James.

NEWS CONFERENCE: West Palm Beach coronavirus news conference (43 minutes)

James said Friday the city remains in a state of emergency and reminds everyone to continue to follow the guidance from the CDC complying with social distancing and wearing a face mask.

"Those steps are indeed saving lives," said James. "If we continue to do our part, we will open soon."

City tennis and racquetball courts, along with Grassy Waters Preserve North Owahee trail, are scheduled to open on Tuesday, May 5 along with boat ramps at Lake Mangonia and Currie Park. City parks will continue to be open but basketball and soccer fields remain closed until further notice.

James said the city will continue to look to state health experts and the governor for guidance on further openings.

West Palm Beach Fire Chief Diana Matty said Friday the department is preparing if a second wave of the virus hits the city.

"Currently our medics are learning to do the test swabs in order for us to be prepared not only for the testing, if the testing kits that we get, but in preparation for an upcoming resurgence as has been talked about," said Matty.

The mayor said said there will be a drive-thru food distribution event held Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Dreher Park.

City staff has approved 26 applications valued at more $60,000 to the West Palm Beach rental eviction protection program, which provides up to two months of rental assistance to eligible residents.

Regarding small businesses, James said seven recipients have received city loans between $5,000 and $10,000 for payroll, rent costs and inventory needs. To date, 26 businesses have been approved by the city for $214,500 of funding. So far, the city has received nearly 130 applications for the program.

To apply for the loans, businesses must meet the following requirements:

  • Be located within the West Palm Beach city limits
  • Generate less than $1,000,000 in gross annual revenues
  • Have less than $150,000 in cash on hand

Additional eligibility requirements and the application are available at in the Business Resource Center section of the city's website.

City Unveils 'West Palm Beach Shops'

The city's has also created a new campaign called “West Palm Shops” to encourage customers to shop online or purchase gift cards from participating retailers.

“Our local business community plays a critical role in the economic health of our city and we will do whatever it takes to keep businesses running,” said James. “As many of you know, this pandemic has affected countless people on a global scale in terms of public health and economic prosperity. Regardless, your City leaders are working hard to make sure we all make it through this together.”

“West Palm Shops” includes details about local shops’ hours of operation, website location and more. Businesses interested in being listed on either “West Palm Eats” or “West Palm Shops” can send this information to EcoDev@wpb.org.

Call (561) 822-1400 (TTY: 800-955-8771) for more information on the city of West Palm Beach’s COVID-19 recovery efforts.