Florida county closes government building after COVID-19 deaths

Manatee County Administration Building disinfected, fogged

(AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
(AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

BRADENTON, Fla. – A Florida county shuttered its main administration building after several employees contracted COVID-19 and two people died, officials said.

Employees of the Manatee County Administration Building were ordered to leave Friday afternoon while the facility was disinfected and fogged. Epidemiologists were onsite initiating contact tracing, according to a press release from county officials.

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Manatee County officials did not say how many people contracted COVID, but County Administrator Dr. Scott Hopes said “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," according to a statement.

Hundreds of employees are believed to work in the building, which includes the state attorney’s office and an office for Republican Rep. Will Robinson, of Bradenton. The building is set to re-open Monday. Face masks will still be optional for employees and visitors, although unvaccinated residents were encouraged to wear masks.

The board of county commissioners voted last month to repeal COVID safety measures and instead encouraged visitors to use their best judgment to prevent the spread of the virus. The decision was in line with Gov. Ron DeSantis' statewide orders. In May, the Republican governor suspended all remaining local COVID-19 restrictions and mandates on individuals and businesses, saying it would accelerate Florida's economy.

Hopes encouraged residents to get vaccinated.

“Preventative measures work. This should be a lesson to others out there: we still have a disease in this community and it appears to be impacting younger people and killing younger than we initially saw,” he tweeted.