The Key West Chamber of Commerce luncheon was a busy one on Sept. 22 at the Opal Key Resort & Marina.

Chamber president Suzanne Moore announced that the business organization has increased its membership to become “500 strong,” thanks to the efforts of its membership committee.

Moore also introduced the 2022 chamber board members and officers. Moore will retain the president’s gavel for another year, and will be joined by treasurer Karen Sharp; secretary Diane Schmidt, 2nd vice president Brittany Snyder, 1st vice president Patricia Neyra and past president Greg Sullivan.

The luncheon included a panel discussion about COVID, its prevention, treatment and presence in Monroe County.

Monroe County Health Department administrator Bob Eadie, Lower Keys Medical Center CEO David Clay and Pat Lefere, the school district’s director of operations and planning, each discussed current trends and statistics in their agencies, with some good news — finally — to share.

Lower Keys Medical Center is at its lowest patient positivity rate in a long time, Clay said.

“Things are looking up and our numbers are going down,” Eadie said. “But there is still a great deal of COVID being transmitted in Monroe County,” where 79% of residents are vaccinated, he said.

Lefere added to the encouragement by reporting that 43% of eligible students are vaccinated.

“We do believe the numbers are plateauing,” he said, adding that quarantine protocols for students who have been in close contact with COVID continue to be a challenge.

“One of our biggest concerns is the impact of sending students home, as we learned pretty quickly in March 2020 that virtual learning is not as effective as in-person instruction.”

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