SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – A firefighter who left isolation after his COVID-19 diagnosis to go boating and to a bar with friends was suspended without pay for his behavior, according to documents from the Seminole County Fire Department.
Records show the firefighter tested positive for COVID-19 after he started feeling ill on June 17. On June 20, he let his battalion chief know of his diagnosis and was placed on disaster leave with pay and told to isolate until his symptoms subsided and he tested negative.
By June 23, the firefighter said he was starting to feel better and then on July 2, while the firefighter was still on paid leave, department officials began receiving reports that he had posted videos on his Instagram showing him boating with at least two other men and two other women, according to the documents.
Other videos showed a neon sign that read “Live nudes” with a woman’s silhouette and an arrow pointed to the right while a third video had the caption “The new Orlando speak easy” and showed the inside of a bar.
The battalion chief called the firefighter, who said he’d felt fine for the past five or six days so he went out on his boat because he was “bored” and “going crazy” just sitting on the couch, records show.
On Aug. 13, an interview was conducted with the firefighter, who admitted to going out on his boat and going to a party at a friend’s house on June 30 while he was supposed to be self-isolating.
“Furthermore, by his own admission in his conversation with Assistant Chief Thurmond on July 2nd, it is indeed fact that (the firefighter) understood that he should be in quarantine and isolated while on paid county leave. Firefighters must follow orders. The inability to do so can lead to disastrous consequences on the scene of an emergency or erosion of public trust in non-emergent situations. In this case, there is no legitimate reason or mitigating circumstances for the failure to follow the established directives,” administrators wrote in a review of the incident.
At the conclusion of the review, the firefighter was found to have been in violation of department policies related to the duty to obey, representation of the department and the pandemic policy.
He was suspended for three days without pay and returned to work on Sept. 27.