Palm Beach County’s sweeping orders aim to ‘lead by example,’ Kerner says

WEST PALM BEACH — Palm Beach County is trying to “lead by example” in taking some drastic steps to more or less have all of its 1.5 million citizens and untold numbers of visitors to essentially shelter in place, starting immediately.

County officials told the public to all but stay home, period, in a 4 p.m. news conference on Wednesday, March 25. Several executive orders by the governor and county administrator were announced.

All of the officials stood at least 6 feet apart as PBC Mayor Dave Kerner opened the conference by announcing Gov. Ron DeSantis’s most recent orders that Floridians “limit social gatherings of 10 or more, and to work remotely from home if you have the ability to do so. That is a statewide order.

“If you have the ability to telecommute … that is an important concept in our COVID-19 response; and, of course … a health advisory … to stay at home and take other such measures as necessary to limit exposure,” for all those 65 or older, who have an immune defense deficiency or “underlying health risks, regardless of your age” such as heart disease and a few others, “it is critically important that you maintain that home shelter status, and that’s true for anybody in the State of Florida … YOU need to take personal responsibility for your future and your health, the health of your family, the health of your friends. That means staying at home unless it’s critically necessary that you leave your home.”

Mayor Kerner noted that it is a 12-page order containing a lot of definitions and some exclusions, and went on to announced two emergency, preemptive county orders:

• The first “has some far-reaching restrictions,” he said. “It will restrict all non-critical retail and commercial business locations from operating, and (they) are ordered closed except to the extent necessary to perform minimum basic operations.”

• The second order “speaks to the immediate closure … as of 4 o’clock today, all parks in the county shall be restricted from any public access.” that included all county and municipal parks and golf courses are closed as of 4 p.m. today, regardless of public or private status or whether they’re in incorporated areas or unincorporated county.”

Mr. Kerner said he would say to anyone who says these restrictions are overbearing, that anytime they follow the restrictions, “you are investing in the future of your community.”

“We have an opportunity … to flatten this curve,” he stated,calling it a personal responsibility.

Dr. Alina Alonso, director of the Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County, commended him, saying, “Very well said.”

She thanked the front-line workers as well as those in the media — “your voice and your messaging is very important” — and gave special recognition to the FDOH team.

She reported the rising numbers as of 3:15 p.m. today:

• U.S. cases, 60,115; 827 deaths;

• Florida, 1,682; 22 deaths;

• Palm Beach County, 118 cases; three deaths;

•“The leading counties: Miami-Dade, 406 cases, zero deaths; Broward, 355 cases, three deaths; Hillsborough, 106 cases, zero deaths.”

“We know that these numbers will continue to rise, and before long if they’re left unchecked — if we don’t do what the CDC and the experts in epidemiology and in the science of pandemics tell us to do, South Florida will be in the same situation as New York City is today. We can stop that from happening.”

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