SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) — The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office says it is seeing an influx of employees test positive for COVID-19.
According to a spokesperson, the sheriff’s office currently has 94 employees out of work experiencing COVID-related symptoms. Sixty of those employees have tested positive for COVID-19.
The sheriff’s office has more than 1,000 employees, so just under 10% of its workforce is impacted.
Just last week, on Aug. 18, Major Jon Goetluck with the administrative division sent all employees an email sharing up-to-date numbers. The subject line read “COVID-19 Update.”
“I wasn’t going to publicize our numbers to avoid unnecessary panic, but I find it necessary to do so. As of yesterday we have a total of 77 personnel out of work with 60 of those with positive test results (this does not include personnel out for other reasons,)” the major wrote in the email. “We have had as many as five persons hospitalized in the past couple of months. It is imperative that we all work together to stop unnecessarily exposing each other and depleting our workforce and staffing levels.”
Major Goetluck sent two emails in the weeks prior urging employees to stay home if they aren’t feeling well.
In an Aug. 3 email to employees, Major Goetluck acknowledged the uptick in cases statewide and locally and stressed, “it is imperative that everyone continue to take all appropriate precautions to help reduce the spread of the virus.”
The major listed precautions employees should take including frequent handwashing, wiping down workstations and common areas and avoiding touching the eyes, nose and mouth. In bold, red, underlined text, the major wrote “most importantly, do not come to work sick.”
One week later, on Aug. 12, the major resent the same email with an additional note to all employees.
“I am resending the below e-mail because we are still having employees coming into work with symptoms and exposing other employees and then testing positive 2-3 days later,” the major said. “We have scaled back group trainings in an effort to decrease large groups being assembled together in close quarters for extended periods of time. Please remember to be considerate of your co-workers and follow the below protocols.”
In regards to vaccinations, this is what the major wrote in his initial ‘COVID update’ email to staff in early August. “Vaccinations are a personal choice and are not mandatory. For anyone who is not vaccinated and wishes to be, vaccinations are readily available and free of charge at any local pharmacy. Employees may also wear masks if they so desire, unless you have been exposed and required to wear a mask by health safety,” said the major.
Sheriff’s office spokesperson Kaitlyn Perez says the agency is handling staffing shortages day by day.
“In our law enforcement division, we also have had a few patrol deputies who have tested positive or who are out including some that work at our front desk,” Perez explained. “So we are kind of using an all hands on deck approach to pull people from different parts of the agency to make sure we are staffing things accordingly.”
The courts and corrections division is the hardest hit, as of this week.
“Right now, we have a good amount of deputies who work in corrections who are out either due to an exposure, symptoms, or a positive test,” said Perez. “Luckily, our workforce over in the courthouse has been helping to supplement our staffing shortages in the facility.”
“No matter where these numbers go and no matter how many people may be exposed in the agency, we are still going to make sure that we are out there answering calls whether that means relying on our partners through MOUs and having other people come to the community to help us,” Perez added. “We realize we are a 24/7, 365 business and that is not going to stop.”