Seminole County EOC Director responds to concerns raised by resident who tested positive for COVID-19

‘I was specifically told I would be receiving daily check in calls,’ Gabriella Bivona said

Seminole County intelligence unit tracks COVID-19 patients
Seminole County intelligence unit tracks COVID-19 patients

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – In Seminole County, officials established a special intelligence unit to try to keep track of and assist residents who have tested positive for the coronavirus, as well as those who are under quarantine.

“Daily our people are calling and checking up on those that are positive to try to make sure they are in tact and staying there,” Seminole County Commission Chairman Jay Zembower said during a Monday afternoon news conference. “We have no method to track these people every waking moment.”

According to Seminole County’s Director of Emergency Management, the main thing they are providing is access to wrap-around services.

"We'll call them and ask them what types of things they need - are you good with food? Are you good with pharmaceuticals? Do you need any additional medication," said Alan Harris, Seminole County's Emergency Management Director. " If you don't need that, or any food - here give us a call. If you need anything, we'll call you in a couple of days to check on you."

Harris said they have seven people on their emergency operations intelligence unit, comprised of new firefighters who are paramedics and EMTs. He said they are making phone calls and following up with residents who have tested positive for COVID-19. Harris confirms while the unit is making calls every day to patients, not every patient is being checked on a day-to-day basis.

"We've delivered hundreds of packages of food. We've delivered pharmaceuticals, which is much different than other counties," said Harris. "We'll call them and ask them what types of things they need?"

Harris said those who are identified as Persons Under Investigation (PUI) who have had a test for COVID-19 are supposed to be getting daily phone calls to check temperatures. He said those who have confirmed tests and who tested positive for COVID-19 are asked if they need anything. Harris said if they refuse services, they will check on them in a couple of days.

"If they say 'we don't need anything, we're good for now', we're not going to call them tomorrow to see if they need any food - because they just told us they're fine for food," said Harris. "But we may call them in a couple of days to see if they are okay."

Gabriella Bivona says she did not get a call every day, or even every few days. Bivona tells News 6 she’s from Seminole County and tested positive for COVID-19 after a spring break trip to London and was recently cleared from quarantine.

“I was specifically told I would be receiving a daily check-in call,” Bivona said.

News 6 obtained the activity log from the Emergency Operations Intelligence Unit, which was provided by Seminole County. It shows Bivona was contacted a total of six times during her quarantine. Three times on March 23, which was the day she was diagnosed. Twice on April 4, which was the day she was cleared, and once with a call on April 2, that was logged as going to voicemail.

But Bivona said she never got that voicemail.

“I have no voicemail, I never received a call on my home phone, my cellphone,” said Bivona. “I even checked on Friday when the executive order went out just to make sure I hadn’t missed any calls.”

Bivona says she doesn’t know if they may have called the wrong number but said she did receive a call from the health department on the evening of April 3 to clear her from her quarantine, but only after she had emailed and called the Seminole County hotline and News 6 for answers.

"They should not be telling the public, or telling the patient, that they will be contacted daily if they are not," said Bivona.

Harris says he will be personally contacting Bivona to see what happened.

"I don't know who told her what," said Harris. "And I need to know where that came from. Did it come from the Health Department? Maybe we need to do some training over there."

News 6 did email the Florida Department of Health in Seminole County on both Sunday and Monday and are awaiting a response.