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Masks optional at Manatee County admin building after COVID cases, 2 deaths

The policy changed after one day.

BRADENTON, Fla. — After five people contracted COVID-19 -- and two died -- at the Manatee County Administration Building, face masks now will be optional for employees and visitors.

The announcement is a change in policy that originally came out Friday that had mandated the use of face coverings when the building reopens Monday.

"When our offices reopen," the county first said in a tweet, "COVID-19 safety protocols will resume, including mandatory face masks."

The cases involved five people between the age of 30-50 years old who worked in the county's IT department, County Administrator Dr. Scott Hopes said. All of them were not vaccinated against the virus.

In a new statement, Hopes said he is reaffirming the county board's May 11 decision that repealed COVID-19 safety requirements and made strong recommendations that people "use their best judgement" to prevent the spread of germs.

"Individual employees in the IT Department who were known to be fully vaccinated and who were in close proximity of those who were infected did not contract COVID-19," Hopes said in a new statement, in part.

"...Visitors and employees who are fully vaccinated may return to work as usual. Unvaccinated individuals are encouraged but not required, to follow COVID-19 prevention measures, including use of N95 or equivalent masks, which will be available at each entrance, and social distancing."

Face masks help to provide a barrier from viral particles from reaching another person and, in turn, limit the spread of COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Vaccines, however, provide the greatest defense against the virus. The state of Florida has a complete list and interactive map of vaccine locations near you.

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