Coronavirus updates: Mayor Dave Kerner declined to put a time table on allowing schools to open and businesses to serve more people.
TO OUR READERS: The Palm Beach Post will continue to provide essential coverage of the coronavirus for free. You can have coronavirus news delivered directly to your inbox by signing up for our Coronavirus Newsletter. Please support local journalism by subscribing to The Post.
With the number of COVID-19 cases continuing to drop, Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner on Monday said it’s time to consider allowing schools and additional businesses to reopen.
In a morning conversation with Gov. Ron DeSantis, Kerner said he outlined a general path Palm Beach County would take to lift restrictions on businesses throughout the county and pave the way for schools to reopen classrooms.
“The county is getting to a place where it is ready to move to Phase 2,” Kerner said. “But I can’t put a time frame on it.”
Before he sends a request to DeSantis, Kerner said he wants to talk to Schools Superintendent Donald Fennoy to find out what help he needs to make sure schools open safely.
Further, Kerner said, he wants the county commission to weigh in on which restrictions should remain in place and which should be lifted.
Putting a time frame on the reopening “would be unfair for the board and unfair to the process,” Kerner said
Under the school board’s current plans, classes would begin remotely on Aug. 31. Once the county moves to Phase 2, parents would be given the option of sending their children to school for in-person instruction.
“Both of us agreed that giving children the option to get back to school is a priority,” Kerner said of his conversation with DeSantis.
In addition to allowing school buildings to reopen, the Phase 2 reopening would allow stores and gyms to increase their capacity from the current 50% to 75%. In addition, restaurants would be allowed to reopen their bars, and movie theaters, bowling alleys and other still-shuttered entertainment venues would be allowed to reopen partially.
Standalone bars, which are closed throughout the state, wouldn’t be allowed to reopen in the county.
However, Kerner said, the plan that was approved by county commissioners in June and sent to DeSantis could be modified. The county canceled the request after cases began spiking.
The latest numbers, which are typically updated by the Florida Department of Health at 11 a.m., hadn’t been released as of 1 p.m. on Monday.
In his talk to DeSantis, Kerner said the governor said the county’s numbers continued to drop.
On Sunday, the county added 227 new cases, pushing its total caseload to 39,129. Three more people were reported dead, bringing the county’s death toll to 1,008.
Statewide, 9,582 people, including nonresidents, have succumbed to the highly contagious respiratory disease.
The state added 3,899 cases on Sunday, bringing the number of people infected to date to 573,416. Only California has more cases, exceeding 620,000; Texas trails the Sunshine State by roughly 20,000 cases.
While the pandemic’s steady march continues, the so-called “positivity rate” in Palm Beach County has clocked in under 10 percent for the 11th day and is hovering closer to 5 percent, a point at which health authorities advising the school district say contagion needs to drop to in order to open schools.
While state health officials claim a rate under 10% is optimal, global health officials said it should drop below 5% if meaningful steps are to be taken to curb the spread of the disease.
“I want to reiterate the importance of less than 5 percent,” Dr. Jean Malecki said at the last meeting of the superintendent’s Health Advisory Committee in the first week of August. “It’s critical to success.”
That stance was echoed by Dr. Tommy Schechtman, a north county pediatrician who was among the authors of a white paper regarding school openings submitted to Gov. DeSantis last month by the Academy of Pediatrics Florida chapter.
By that metric, Palm Beach County’s rolling rate on Sunday would by 7.8 percent, down from 8 percent Saturday and 8.2 percent on Friday. In other words, it’s moving in the right direction — away from 10 percent and headed for 5 percent — but it’s not there yet.
“We’ve chosen 5% because we know the most success in Europe and in Southeast Asia is when they reduced the incidents to that level,” Schechtman said in an interview last week.
Staff writer John Pacenti contributed to this story.
>>FAU pushes coronavirus skeptic as ‘expert’ even as scientists pan his views
>>New ‘Harvest of Shame:’ Most younger people dying from coronavirus are Black, Hispanic
>>Coronavirus Florida: ‘Flori-duh,’ DeSantis in national spotlight for bungling pandemic
>> Mask foes shrug off national TV ‘bullies’ poking fun at ‘Crazytown’ Palm Beach County
WORKERS ON THE FRONT LINES
>>My life as an AC repairman: ‘I’m a big believer in indoor air quality’ during the pandemic
>>My life as a restaurant hostess: ‘I just always try to keep the energy positive’
>>My life as a sanitation worker: Pandemic or not, ‘I have to be careful all the time’
>>My life as a Walgreens pharmacist during the pandemic: ‘It’s just chaotic in the pharmacy’
THE BASICS: BE INFORMED
>>Want Coronavirus news as it happens? Sign up for our Breaking News Coronavirus email
>>COVID-19 stats made simple