Palm Beach County officials announced during a news conference Wednesday afternoon that all non-critical businesses, parks and golf courses (both public and private) in the county must close.
County Mayor Dave Kerner explained, “We believe that all the businesses operating in Palm Beach County are essential, but the county administrator and the Executive Policy Group decided to take restrictions one step further and define what is critical and non-critical at this time.”
At that point, County Administrator Verdenia Baker addressed the difference between essential and non-essential businesses.
She reiterated that all businesses in the county are essential, although not all businesses are “critical for people’s needs” and the critical businesses that need to stay open are “mission responsible,” including healthcare manufacturers, grocery stores and pharmacies.
Businesses that have had to temporarily close may continue to sell their products online.
They defined the following as critical operations, which will stay open: hospitals, doctor’s offices, dentist offices, urgent care clinics, rehabilitation facilities, physical therapy centers, mental health professionals, psychiatrists, therapists, research laboratories, blood banks, medical cannabis facilities, medical equipment facilities, eye care centers, home health care services, substance abuse counselors, medical transport, grocery stores, pharmacies, businesses engaged in food cultivation, and child care facilities, among others.
Non-critical businesses will have until the end of business on Thursday to close their operations.
In addition, anyone who violates the new order could be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in jail.
Kerner also addressing executive orders. He said that Gov. Ron DeDantis has issued two executive orders, the first of which limits social gatherings of 10 or more and requests Floridians to work from home or telecommute if possible. The second order is that people over the age of 65 need to stay home in order to limit their chances of exposure to coronavirus.
“You need to take responsibility for the future of your health,” Kerner added.
He wants the federal government to stop flights to Florida from the Tri-State area, as that action cannot be made at the local level.
Dr. Alina Alonso added, “If we don’t do what the CDC says… South Florida will be in the same situation that New York City is in today.”
County commissioner Mack Bernard emphasized the need for senior citizens to be protected, saying, “We need the help of every county resident and non-resident to help stop the spread of COVID-19. We must protect our seniors.”
According to Bernard, 25 percent of the county’s 1.5 million residents are seniors.
Since President Trump approved a “major disaster”declaration in Florida on Wednesday, Bernard wants FEMA to create two new drive-thru testing sites in Palm Beach County, one in South County and another one in the central part of the county.
He says the testing numbers are too low; as of 10 a.m. Wednesday, only 812 residents have been tested, putting Palm Beach County “dead last” in per capita for testing in the state.
“This is a matter of life and health,” Bernard explained. “Help us ban this curve and fight this war against COVID-19.”
Our state has 1,977 confirmed cases as of Wednesday evening, with 141 in Palm Beach County, 412 in Broward, and 491 cases in Miami-Dade.
There is a new death from COVID-19 in Florida. That brings the statewide total to 23.