Volusia Sheriff: Florida Department of Health is putting first responders at risk

‘If you don’t protect us, when people call 911, nobody’s coming,’ Sheriff Chitwood says

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – Volusia County’s top law enforcement officer is blasting the Florida Department of Health for not releasing all information involving the new coronavirus COVID-19 that, he said, puts first responders and residents at risk.

"This is unprecedented in the history of this country and we're playing games with information," Sheriff Mike Chitwood said.

Chitwood posted on Facebook Sunday night, that there are now 27 locations being monitored in the county for possible exposure. The health department released on Monday, six confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Volusia County, four men and two women ranging in ages between 29-89 years old.

Chitwood said there’s a need for first responders to know through their dispatch program if a person potentially has the coronavirus or is quarantined, to help prevent spreading the virus to their own family and others.

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“If we’re dispatched to 123 Main, law enforcement, or fire or EMS needs to know that. Why should they walk in there blind? And then take it back to the squad room and then take it back to their families," the sheriff said. "I mean, I think we should be better than that.”

The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office is taking action and posted a list of what the department is doing to minimize the spread of the virus. Including:

-Developing health questionnaire for arrestees to determine if they have any signs or symptoms of infection

-Communications Center screening all medical calls

-Ordering more masks, gloves and hand sanitizers

-And decontaminating the backseats in patrol cars.

The sheriff said despite some backlash, he'll continue to post all information he receives about possible and confirmed cases, until everyone gets on board.

“The health department needs to learn a valuable lesson," Chitwood said. "Get the damn information out there. Protect first responders because if you don’t protect us, when people call 911, nobody’s coming.”

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About the Author:

Loren Korn is a native Texan who joined the News 6 team as a reporter in May 2014. She was born and raised in Houston and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Journalism.