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Coronavirus Live Updates: Palm Beach County Mayor Calls For Vaccine Equity In 'State of County' Address

Dave Kerner_01072020.png
Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner speaking at a press conference in January 2021

This post will be updated today, Thursday, March 4, and through the week with the latest information on COVID-19 in South Florida.

WLRN staff continues to add updates on testing and vaccination sites, executive orders and messages from government officials, and the latest news on COVID-19. You can find information on free food and food distributions here.

The dedicated website for the Florida Department of Health, including information about the numbers of cases, can be found here.

The dedicated website from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can be found here.

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Palm Beach County Mayor Calls For Vaccine Equity In 'State of County' Address

Updated Thursday at 6 p.m.

Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner says psychologically, residents are looking at the vaccine as the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel.

During a virtual “State of the County” address yesterday, Kerner said the county is working with the state to increase the flow of vaccines. His focus is on distributing vaccines to all areas, especially the underserved western parts of the county.

“We do it in a way that is equitable and cognizant of some of the cultural issues out west in Belle Glade or in some of [our] minority communities where there is distrust of the government,” Kerner said. “The local leaders need to stand up.”

Kerner says the county is doing well when it comes to vaccines. According to the Florida Department of Health, nearly 290,000 people have been vaccinated in Palm Beach County.

And nearly 60% of those residents are seniors 65 and older.

— By Wilkine Brutus / WLRN

Florida Adds More Than 6,100 New Cases, 120 New Resident Deaths

Updated Thursday at 3:45 p.m.

Florida’s Department of Health confirmed an additional 6,118 positive cases of COVID-19 Thursday. The state has a total of 1,930,232 confirmed positive cases, according to the state's health department.

Thursday's update also included the announcement of 120 new resident deaths, increasing the statewide number of Floridians who died to 31,387. Factoring in non-resident deaths the number of deaths due to COVID-19 is 31,955.

Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties make up 10,440 of those reported deaths. Monroe County has reported 46 deaths due to COVID-19.

— WLRN News

DeSantis: Florida Will Follow Federal Guidelines Allowing COVID Vaccines For All Teachers And Childcare Workers

Updated Thursday at 1:40 p.m.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said a federal mandate that allows K-12 teachers, daycare and preschool workers in Florida to get vaccinated will be followed in Florida.

Speaking Thursday at coronavirus vaccination sites in Crystal River and Sebring, the governor said a new mandate from the Biden Administration, which directs every state to prioritize all educators for the vaccine, will allow teachers of all ages to get vaccinated at some locations in Florida. An executive order issued by the governor Friday had opened vaccine eligibility only to K-12 teachers 50 and older.

CVS already has made available the option for all teachers regardless of age to make appointments at its vaccination sites, and Walmart announced it would do so soon as well. DeSantis said other retail pharmacies and the state’s four new federal mass vaccination sites would likely offer the same opportunity to teachers and childcare workers. DeSantis also said he expects more CVS locations to open for vaccination in Florida soon.

Read more at our news partner the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

— By Brooke Baitinger and Cindy Krischer Goodman / Sun Sentinel

Florida Jobless Claims Below 16,000 Last Week

Updated Thursday at 12:05 p.m.

Marking a pandemic low, the U.S. Department of Labor estimated 15,903 first-time unemployment claims were filed last week in Florida. The estimate for the week that ended Feb. 27 was down 2,727 from a revised count of 18,630 for the week ending Feb. 20.

The number for the week ending Feb. 20 had initially been projected at 16,100 claims. Over the past four weeks, the state has averaged 19,452 claims, down from 50,442 the previous four weeks.

Florida’s drop came as the Department of Labor estimated 745,000 first-time unemployment claims were filed nationally last week. The national estimate was an increase of 9,000 from a revised estimate for the week ending Feb. 20. Last week’s estimate for Florida was the lowest since the week ending March 14, 2020, when 6,463 claims came in before the COVID-19 pandemic forced widespread business shutdowns.

The state started to become overwhelmed with claims the following week last March, with 74,313 filed. The weekly peak came April 18, when 506,670 claims were submitted. Since March 15, 2020, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity has handled more than 5.19 million claims, which have resulted in nearly 2.3 million claimants receiving more than $22.8 billion in state and federal assistance.

Florida’s unemployment rate in December stood at 6.1 percent, with a January rate slated to be released March 15.

— By News Service of Florida Staff

Baptist Health To Resume COVID Vaccinations — But There Are Particular Requirements

Updated Thursday at 6:35 a.m

Were you one of the thousands who had an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccination at Baptist Health in January, only to get a notice that appointments were canceled?

If so, check your email now.

Baptist Health South Florida plans to resume vaccinations, but only for those who already had a canceled first-dose appointment from January. Those appointments were canceled over vaccine supply.

— By Howard Cohen / The Miami Herald

Read more from our news partner at The Miami Herald.

Miami Commissioner Who Pushed For Vaccines In Black Communities In Hospital With COVID

Updated Thursday at 6:33 a.m

Miami Commissioner Jeffrey Watson, who has pushed to improve vaccination rates in Miami’s Black communities, has been in the hospital for nearly a week after contracting COVID-19.

“I’m fighting,” Watson told the Miami Herald in a phone interview Wednesday evening from his room at Jackson Memorial Hospital. “I’m old and rusty, but this won’t take me down.”

Watson, Miami’s only Black elected official, said he fell ill before a Feb. 25 commission meeting, forcing him to participate via video call. After logging off in the early evening, he said he fell asleep for more than 12 hours. When he woke up Friday with difficulty breathing, he called Fire Chief Joseph Zahralban, who rushed over and recommended he go to Jackson.

— By Joey Flechas / The Miami Herald

Read more from our news partner at The Miami Herald.