Florida Emergency Operations Center closes after 12 employees test positive for COVID-19

Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz. (News4Jax)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida operations center running the state’s coronavirus pandemic response closed for deep cleaning this week after 12 employees tested positive for COVID-19, according to a report from the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper.

The Division of Emergency Management said in a tweet Thursday that it has been conducting biweekly testing at the Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee for several weeks. According to the Democrat article, 12 employees have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

The Division of Emergency Management, which oversees the state’s response to natural disasters and emergencies, closed the operations center for deep cleaning.

All were asymptomatic and are working from their homes, as are immediate co-workers pending further testing, according to the division, which has been operating at a heightened activation level since February because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The employees are believed to have contracted the virus outside of the Tallahassee emergency-management office, as they don’t work in the same areas, Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz said.

“The EOC (Emergency Operations Center) is open, we’re operating,” Moskowitz said.

The division’s executive team continues to work out of the building, he said.

Even before the recent positive tests, Moskowitz said the office has undergone nightly sanitary spraying, and a requirement was in place for people to wear face masks when inside the building. Protocols have also been set up that will limit occupancy at the Emergency Operations Center if a hurricane threatens the state.

“Usually, we have 600 people running around the floors here. That clearly won’t be happening,” Moskowitz said. “We’re going to be spread out.”

Emergency workers now focused on the pandemic would shift to facilities across the street in the state’s Betty Easley Conference Center if the office is activated for a hurricane.

The EOC has been operating at a level 1 since March, which means the center is staffed 24 hours a day.

The Florida Department of Health reported nearly 14,000 near coronavirus cases on Thursday and a record number of deaths with 156 new fatalities reported. More than 315,700 people in Florida have tested positive for the virus since March.