MANATEE COUNTY (WFLA) – Manatee County government is seeing another deadly spike in COVID-19 cases.
In mid-June, two unvaccinated IT employees died during an outbreak in the county’s administration building.
During a news conference on Friday afternoon, County Administrator Dr. Scott Hopes confirmed a third county employee died of COVID-19 last week. The employee was a utility worker who was also unvaccinated.
A total of 41 Manatee County employees tested positive for COVID-19 between May 3 and July 30, including five staff members who were vaccinated. The majority of those cases came in the last two weeks. County data shows 24 people have tested positive for COVID-19 since July 19.
Dr. Hopes says most of the cases were in the utilities department.
“I can tell you the utilities department is one of those areas where there was a lot of vaccine hesitancy. In addition to that, there was a lot of resistance to wearing masks and that is why you have so many cases,” said Dr. Hopes.
County officials say they’re making changes to their COVID protocols to help decrease the spread of the virus.
“When we have an employee that has been identified through contact tracing, they will be home on quarantine for 10 days and if they are symptomatic… 10 days plus at least at least 24 hours of no fever without being treated with anti-fever medication,” said Dr. Hopes. “If someone is positive, it is 10 days of isolation and 24 hours of no fever without taking medication to reduce fever and improving symptoms with the exception of the loss of taste and smell because that can go on for a long period of time.”
Because of the breakthrough cases and the overall prevalence of the delta variant in Manatee County, some employees are choosing to once again mask up. However, it is not mandatory.
The Manatee County Dept. of Health confirmed with 8 On Your Side, the two employees who died in mid-June were not infected with the delta variant. They both contracted the alpha variant, or the original strain of COVID-19. It’s unclear which variant the employee who died last week may have been infected with.
In the meantime, Manatee County officials continue urging residents and employees to get vaccinated.
“We are doing our part to help protect our employees and we are communicating with the public about how we continue to move forward with our lives, educating our children, continuing to prosper economically. People have to take personal responsibility. We each have a responsibility for our own health and our neighbor’s health,” said Dr. Hopes.