Health officials are giving the Palm Beach County School District a positive rating for its efforts to control the spread of COVID-19 in the face of a recent increase in transmissibility.
Florida Department of Health-Palm Beach County Director Dr. Alina Alonso and Dr. Belma Andric, Chief Medical Officer of the Health Care District of Palm Beach County, provided an update to the Palm Beach County School Board on Wednesday, September 1 on the le COVID-19 status with respect to school operations.
“They are here for a policy workshop regarding the COVID-19 conditions we are facing, and they have agreed to make a presentation,” Superintendent Michael Burke said. “The Department of Health remains a tremendous partner for us as we fight this pandemic, along with the Health Care District.”
Alonso said the national rate of COVID-19 is now above its last peak after the summer recess of 2020.
“The peak happened on July 17th, then everything went down. Then when we opened our doors and got ready for school, it started to slowly increase in October and November, ”she recalls. “Then we had our [winter] the holidays and the vaccinations came in here in December, and we started going down… We said, “Wow, it’s over. “
But that last Memorial Day and July 4 turned out to be super spreaders, and the numbers started to rise sharply, and almost the entire country is now in CDC’s “high” transmission rate.
“It has caused a lot of staffing issues so that hospitals can get people from different industries, such as healthcare, to help each other out because the whole country is in the same shape as we are here in Florida. “, says Alonso.
In Palm Beach County, the current peak in cases per week is a third higher than the previous peak that occurred last January.
“By January 16, we were at 6,000 cases per week,” she said. “Now we are at 9,000 cases per week. We’ve come down a little bit over the last week or so, and we’re keeping our fingers crossed that it’s not just a little down, and it’s going to go down a bit. The community spread is very high, and that’s why we need to keep an eye on it.
Alonso noted that the highly contagious delta variant now accounts for almost all cases of the virus.
“This variant causes a lot of problems because not only is it more contagious, but it spreads more easily from person to person, but it also causes some of these breakthroughs where you hear that some of these people have been vaccinated.” , she said. “The vaccine is doing its job because its job is to keep you out of the hospital and not die.”
Local hospitals have reported that almost all hospitalized virus-infected patients are not vaccinated.
Alonso was happy to report that vaccinations continue to rise in the county, with minors between the ages of 12 and 19 having the largest increase and are now over 50 percent.
“I think the health care district has done a great job getting all these children vaccinated, and especially the parents for bringing them in and getting them vaccinated,” she said, adding that the elderly from 70 to 79 and 60 to 69 remain the highest. above 90 percent vaccinated.
She added that the number of COVID-19 cases among children under 18 in the county is growing rapidly, with 2,794 cases in the past week.
Alonso added that Pfizer should have a vaccine ready for 5 to 11 year olds in late fall or early winter.
Andric, who oversees the school immunization program, said his staff had set up mobile vaccination clinics in five different locations across the county that were accessible and easy to locate, which were set up shortly after the increase in l ‘age.
“The majority of the vaccines were given to children, but also to their families,” said Andric, adding that the sharing of the operation between the school district, the health department and the health care district had never been as good.
“Over the past year, we’ve learned a lot better about working together,” she said. “I think we’re in a great position to have all of these resources and multi-agencies to help the school district have a successful year. I think resilience and hope, about what we talk about very often, you have no other choice.
School board member Marcia Andrews asked what parents should do for their child in order to be diagnosed quickly once exposed to the virus.
Andric said anything the school district does, like increasing testing, will make it a lot easier for parents, but when the numbers go down in the community, they’ll go down in school. She explained that the tests used in schools are transmissibility tests.
“We are trying to detect any potential for transmissibility very early on for children who have respiratory symptoms,” she said.