MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. — Manatee County leaders say its county administration building closed early Friday due to the number of COVID-19 cases among employees and recent deaths.
The administration building located at 1112 Manatee Ave. W shut its doors at 2:30 p.m.
"We will undergo deep cleaning of all nine floors, sanitization and fogging of the facility, as well as our exercise facility," County Administrator Dr. Scott Hopes said.
Hopes says five people anywhere from 30 to 50-years-old caught the virus. All of them were in the IT department, unvaccinated.
"Those five cases resulted in four hospitalizations and two deaths. One of the deaths was not a hospitalization. We're not talking about, you know, an elderly individual. It was you know, one of the cases was a male and the other case was a female," Hopes said.
Because of the quick impact and reaction after testing positive, Hopes is concerned a dangerous variant of COVID-19 is circulating in the county.
"When you've got 5 known cases in one department and, you know, nearly 50 percent, you know, died, 100 percent either ended up in the hospital, or they die of those five cases, that's how serious it appears, and we're treating it as such," Hopes said.
Protocols to mitigate the spread are back after the county dropped them on May 12. Masks, social distancing and temperature checks are all required.
"Until we can be assured that we no longer have cases in the building. It's been a shock to the organization. People were just beginning to get back to what the new normal was like and then this. It's devastating and my heart goes out to the families," Hopes said.
10 Tampa Bay asked Hopes if he believes the mitigation efforts were dropped too soon. He says it wasn't his decision, but he was concerned.
"These protocols work, these protocols prevent illness, and they help to minimize death. I think when you've got a large number of people that are working closely together and are not vaccinated, that that could be a recipe for disaster. Unfortunately, we experienced that in our work family this week," Hopes said.
Staff in Manatee County are left shaken, but the message is clear, COVID-19 is still in our communities. Hopes says anyone who still needs to be vaccinated should take the opportunity to get the shot.
"The SARS-CoV-2 virus is still in our communities. It's still in our workplaces. We know how to prevent the spread of it, and we need to practice it," Hopes said.
The Manatee County Department of Health was on site for contact tracing, according to the county.
The building will reopen at 8 a.m. Monday with the resumption of COVID-19 safety protocols and mandatory face masks.
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