NORTH MIAMI, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis continues taking flak for his absence and silence regarding Florida’s sharp spike in omicron cases during the recent holidays.
The governor drew more criticism this week, when he spoke against vaccines, while continuing to champion unproven antibody treatments, in his ﬁrst news conference since the latest COVID-19 outbreak.
DeSantis previously had not addressed any state response to the coronavirus pandemic since Dec. 17.
That covid surge has people on edge as the positivity rate stands at 15 percent in Miami-Dade County, according to the Florida Department of Health, and 20 percent in Palm Beach County.
People are waiting in long lines despite additional testing and vaccination sites being providing throughout Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.
In North Miami, City Councilman Alix Desulme announced that he has tested positive for COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated, and is urging everyone to get the vaccine to slow down the spread of the virus and save lives. Desulme said he is isolating himself at home until he has fully recovered.
"This is a breakthrough infection as I am fully vaccinated and boosted,” Desulme said. “I only have mild cold-like symptoms. If I was not vaccinated and boosted, my symptoms could have been much worse. I am continuing to isolate myself at home."
North Miami is among other municipalities stepping up efforts to protect citizens. Mayor Philippe Bien-Aime has teamed with WorldSafe 1st to host covid testing and vaccination sites at the Gwen Margolis Community Center, 1590 N.W. 123rd St., and at the Joe Celestine Community Center, 1525 N.W. 135 St.
The sites will be open from Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Vaccinations are by appointment only on Saturdays. Testing sites have also been set up at the Joseph Caleb Center, 5400 N.W. 22nd Ave., and outside local convenience stores.
In response to more than 56,000 new cases on Saturday, Broward County is opening more testing sites this week in Miramar, Tamarac, Coconut Creek and Davie. The new sites include the Lauderhill Sports Park, 7500 West Oakland Blvd.; Miramar Youth Enrichment Center, 7700 Miramar Park; Tradewinds Park, 3600 W. Sample Road in Coconut Creek; and Tree Tops Park, 3900 SW 100th Ave. in Davie.
Meanwhile, in the absence or state action, Palm Beach County has expanded to nine public testing sites, from Boca Raton to Palm Beach Gardens, and Belle Glade to Rivera Beach, where lines and waits continue for multiple hours in many cases.
Some residents are receiving free athome testing kits, such as in Palm Beach County, where ofﬁcials this week approved spending up to $500,000 in federal money for them, to supplement the tests they have requested from the state.
According to the state Department of Health, Florida had 747,820 new coronavirus cases from Dec. 19 to Jan. 2, the most in that time frame since the pandemic began in 2020. Palm Beach County cases spiked by 24,488 during the last week of 2021, with 30.6% of tests reporting positive, third-highest of the state’s 67 counties.
The state had its most new cases for one day, 46,923 on Dec. 28, although no new deaths were reported. Florida reached 4.9 million total cases on Dec. 29, and 62,480 total deaths since the start of the pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
The latest outbreak has impacted the airline industry, hospitals and local schools. Thousands of flights were canceled over a two-week period due to stafﬁng shortages because of the virus. Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale temporarily closed its baby delivery unit due to shortage of staff amid rising coronavirus cases.
Regarding public schools, the three counties are requiring all adults including staff members, bus drivers and visitors who enter school facilities to wear facing coverings at all times. Masks for students are optional and left to parents; DeSantis’ executive order bans mask mandates for students.
Elsewhere in Florida, Ken Welch was scheduled to be sworn in on the steps of City Hall Jan. 6 as St. Petersburg’s ﬁrst Black mayor. That has been canceled and he will take ofﬁce in a virtual inauguration ceremony, following CDC quarantine guidelines after testing positive for COVID-19.
Welch, 57, was vaccinated early last year and received a booster in November, ofﬁcials said. He ﬁrst tested positive Monday morning using a home kit. A PCR test later in the day was also positive.
“Let this serve as a reminder to all of us to get vaccinated and follow CDC guidelines to minimize the spread of COVID19,” Welch said in a statement. “While this is disappointing, I am incredibly thankful that my current symptoms are not serious.”
North Miami Councilman Desulme also is encouraging everyone including city employees, elected ofﬁcials and members of the public to get vaccinated and boosted.
"As we continue to navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic, we ask that you do your part to keep everyone safe during these times. Be mindful and adhere to the proper public health safety recommendations." he said.
"Continue to follow the CDC guidelines, wear your face covering, practice social distancing, get tested and stay home if you feel sick."