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Palm Beach County’s Top Health Official Is Concerned About Long-Term COVID-19 Effects

WLRN screenshot
Dr.Alina Alonso at the Palm Beach County Commission meeting. 10/27/2020

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, the top health official in Palm Beach County is worried about the long-term impacts of COVID-19.

Dr. Alina Alonso spoke at an in-person county commission meeting Tuesday. She says some COVID-19 symptoms might not go away.

"There are many affected areas in the brain. It’s almost like a stroke that is occurring in that area of smell and taste," Alonso said. "And it may be permanent. Some people get the taste and smell back and others don’t."

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The county's daily numbers continue to fluctuate. The daily positivity rate hovers around 6%. The weekly COVID-19 average now sits at 280 cases, up from 147 from last week. Alonso says the local and nationwide uptick in cases shows that Americans aren't flattening the curve long enough.

And people who are told to quarantine for two weeks must stay isolated the entire time, even if they test negative within that time frame.

"[The] CDC is not recommending actual testing, they just recommend to maintain isolation and quarantine for the set number of days because some people can remain positive for up to 2-3 months [according to the CDC]," Alonso said.

Commissioner Robert Weinroth raised concerns about long-term COVID-19 effects, such as multi-system inflammatory syndrome, or MIS-C, a condition in children that affects different parts of the body like the brain, kidneys, heart, and lungs.

Alonso said doctors and scientists are still trying to determine the long- term "sequelae of COVID."

"We really don't know what long-term affects will be," she said.

The county's health director said funding from the state to provide contact tracers is ending Nov. 30, but the county is continuing to provide support for contact tracing programs.

Despite concerns about the long-term effects of the coronavirus, Alonso said the county is finding some success in slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

She said people need to take better precautions — particularly during flu season — including: wearing facial coverings, maintaining healthy social distances, and taking flu shots.