Today marks a local shift in COVID-19 health requirements as Palm Beach County voted 7-0 in favor of requiring face masks to be worn in public. While this continues to be a topic of heated debate, one thing for sure is that the number of positive COVID-19 cases has “risen very, very rapidly” since Florida entered into the first phase of reopening in mid-May. Director of Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County, Dr. Alina Alfonso, reports that the number of cases is going “in the wrong direction”.

Why are the Numbers Rising?

The number of cases continue to rise quickly for several reasons. One main reason is that our state has a lot of people living in close proximity to each other. The high density to space ratio will always be a struggle for a state like Florida because our tourism brings in so many visitors. On top of a heavy population of regular residents, we also have an influx of extra bodies to account for, especially during traveling seasons like the summer. Another main reason our numbers have increased is the lag factor of the tests. Even if every person is tested, there is a lag time between the test and the results, and controlling people’s interaction during that essential time period is nearly impossible. Local government officials understand the various concerns of citizens on both sides of the argument, but they ultimately believe this is a necessary move to “avoid a second wave and another potential shutdown.”

How Will Face Masks be Enforced? 

It’s still too early to know exactly how face masks will be enforced. The county hopes to work with the police department to properly word the new requirement in a way that is clear and transparent to everyone. Specifications will surely be made available in the near future as more meetings take place to discuss every aspect of the change. Some officials have pushed for a face mask requirement for the next four months, and some have pushed it for the next full year. As for now, the time frame is open-ended and the requirement would not be enforced in open spaces like the beach. Moving forward, Palm Beach County joins Broward and Miami-Dade counties in this decision.