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Retiree-Rich Palm Beach County Leads Florida In COVID-19 Deaths

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JUPITER, Fla. — No place in Florida has recorded extra deaths from COVID-19 than Palm Beach County, the tropical trip and retirement vacation spot that payments itself — chutzpah however — as “The Best of Everything.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, 69 folks within the South Florida county of 1.5 million had died after being contaminated with the novel coronavirus. The loss of life toll outpaces the state’s two extra populated counties, together with Miami-Dade, which has almost twice the inhabitants and 49 deaths.

Health consultants attribute the county’s excessive mortality price to 3 components: a big elder inhabitants, with 1 in four residents 65 or over; its lack of obtainable testing, notably in contrast with its southern neighbors, Broward and Miami-Dade counties; and frequent journey amongst residents and guests to and from the New York metro space, the nationwide epicenter of the outbreak.

Dr. Larry Bush, an infectious illness specialist within the county, mentioned that, regardless of the dangers to older residents and the paucity of testing, seniors can shield themselves.

“There is a lot of anxiety out there,” Bush mentioned. His recommendation: “Stay away from everybody, and if you don’t have to be out, go home.”

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About 6,700 folks have been examined in Palm Beach County, fewer than one-fourth of Miami-Dade’s tally and one-third that of Broward. Of the 69 deaths, 64 had been folks over 65, together with 49 over 80.

The average age of residents with confirmed instances in Palm Beach County is 57, in contrast with 49 in each Miami-Dade and Broward.

Drive-thru testing websites in Palm Beach County have had overwhelming demand and turned away hundreds of residents looking for appointments as a result of well being officers didn’t have sufficient assessments.

Fear of the virus is sending a shudder by way of this prosperous county about an hour’s drive from Miami that has attracted Northerners because the railroad arrived within the 1890s.

Although Palm Beach is Florida’s high agricultural county — main the nation in sugar and candy corn — it’s higher identified for its gated retirement communities, golf programs and lots of oceanfront resort resorts catering to hundreds of thousands of annual guests. It’s additionally residence to President Donald Trump’s palatial residence and membership, Mar-a-Lago. Tourists looking for solar on the seashores or a glimpse of the old-money mansions that line part of the shoreline are almost extinct now (although some seasonal residents haven’t headed residence but).

For residents, the modifications introduced on by COVID-19, the illness attributable to the coronavirus, are disconcerting. Retirees drawn to the nice and cozy local weather (and 0 state revenue tax) mentioned the previous weeks have felt extra like an odd trip than their traditional life-style — they usually don’t know when it will likely be over.

Many of the Palm Beach deaths had been of individuals from the southern a part of the county, together with three within the upscale Polo Club of Boca Raton, a gated neighborhood the place many retirees take pleasure in 5 full-service eating places, two golf programs, a health middle and card rooms that host poker and bridge video games every day.

Jerry Levy, 87, a 20-year resident of the Polo Club with spouse Thelma, mentioned the outbreak and Gov. Ron DeSantis’ order for folks to remain residence have disrupted his life-style, which most days used to incorporate tennis, poker and infrequently dinner with associates.

“Mentally, people are breaking down,” mentioned Thelma, 88. “Two weeks was fine, but it’s hard to accept that this is how it’s going to be for a while. And people are getting cranky.”

Jerry and Thelma Levy, residents of the Polo Club of Boca Raton, Florida, say they’re having to surrender a lot of their traditional actions to remain protected from the coronavirus outbreak, which has hit their neighborhood arduous. “It’s hard to accept that this is how it’s going to be for a while,” Thelma Levy says.(Courtesy of Jerry and Thelma Levy)

The Levys cross most days studying, strolling of their neighborhood of three,000 folks, watching films on tv and videoconferencing with family and friends. They nonetheless go to grocery shops however at the moment are sporting gloves and face coverings.  When their housekeeper visited final week, they gave her a masks and gloves earlier than she began working.

At Century Village, a big retirement neighborhood in West Palm Beach, residents are adjusting progressively to their new existence. “We are bored, anxious and would love to have an indication when this will be over,” mentioned Bobbi Levin, 80, who works on a number of social committees at her rental advanced.

“It feels like we are on a forced vacation,” mentioned Levin, who moved from New York 20 years in the past. “I do crossword puzzles and catch up with Netflix.”

Lately, Levin mentioned, she stays residence and waves to folks from a distance whereas standing within the out of doors hallway. It helps having her sister subsequent door.

Dr. Joseph Ouslander, a professor of geriatric medication at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, mentioned he worries about many seniors within the county who stay alone and lower off from others.

“We see so many vulnerable people who are living on the edge by themselves and do not have any close family in the area, and they are not able to get the things they need,” he mentioned.

Ouslander, who works at a medical clinic serving a number of retirement communities and nursing houses, recommends that seniors do something they will to remain energetic — even strolling round their home or neighborhood — in addition to use social media to succeed in out to family and friends.

Dr. Joel Rosenberg, a retired coronary heart physician who lives on the Polo Club in Boca Raton, has performed “amateur disease detective” in current weeks speaking to most of the 20 residents who’ve examined constructive and are nonetheless at residence. He mentioned all three deaths had been of individuals with underlying lung or coronary heart illness. Most of the remainder have already recovered.

Many who had been contaminated had both traveled not too long ago to New York or been in shut contact with folks from there, he mentioned.

No one is inviting friends into their houses anymore. It’s changing into widespread to see folks holding pleased hours of their driveways, with one resident sitting in every nook not less than 15 to 20 ft away from the others.

“Humans are social animals, so it’s hard not to be social,” Rosenberg mentioned.

Use Our Content This story could be republished free of charge (details).

Phil Galewitz: pgalewitz@kff.org”>pgalewitz@kff.org, @philgalewitz

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