As the Pinellas County Commission prepares to vote on a mask requirement Tuesday afternoon, at least nine employees in the county’s 9-1-1 dispatch center have tested positive for the coronavirus, an official said.
Lourdes Benedict, an assistant county administrator, said the nine employees have tested positive for COVID-19, and some have returned to work at the county’s Emergency Operations Center, which also houses the Sheriff’s Office and Emergency Medical Services and the 9-1-1 dispatch center.
Of the more than 200 employees who work in the dispatch center, at least 20 have been under a two-week quarantine at some point during the pandemic, Benedict told the Tampa Bay Times on Tuesday.
“It’s concerning and unsettling for staff,” Benedict said. “You almost have to assume the person next to you has” the virus.
County officials finalized three proposed ordinances on Monday that could put coverings on some faces if commissioners pass the measure Tuesday.
The proposals come after the commission directed County Administrator Barry Burton and County Attorney Jewel White last week to spell out who would be required to wear masks — the public at large, for instance, or only employees in a business who interact with customers.
To help slow the virus spread, the county has been taking temperatures of employees each day and asking each one a series of questions before any can enter the dispatch center, Benedict said. Employees also are wearing masks and social distancing is taking place. Additionally, the center is repeatedly disinfected, she said.
So far, some managers who have tested positive have been able to work remotely, and neither the positive tests nor the quarantines have caused service disruptions, she said.
On Tuesday, the Times also reported that Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater — the bay area’s three largest cities— have reported 71 COVID-19 cases among municipal employees during the pandemic, with the highest numbers occurring among public safety workers.