Officials in Manatee County, Florida, shut down the local government building on Friday and ordered it disinfected after an outbreak of Covid-19 decimated the suburban Tampa county’s IT department.
Employees were ordered to leave the building at 2:30 p.m. on Friday, before disinfection procedures, including fogging, got under way.
The county made the decision after “a number of COVID-19 cases” were diagnosed among staff, including almost the entire IT department.
According to the Bradenton Herald, four staffers have been hospitalized for Covid-19 and two have died since Monday.
The newspaper reported only one member of the department has not been infected—that person is vaccinated.
The vaccination status of others in the department was not clear, and a spokesman for Manatee County government did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Forbes.
“These were not elderly employees,” County Administrator Scott Hopes told the Bradenton Herald.
What To Watch For
The county said it plans to put a mask mandate and other Covid protocols in place when workers return Monday, but it’s not clear how those can be enforced since Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has prohibited penalties for violating local Covid mandates. Epidemiologists are also undertaking contact tracing in response to the outbreak.
Covid outbreaks have become increasingly rare in the U.S. as the share of the population that’s vaccinated has risen. But health officials are warning risk remains high for the unvaccinated population, especially given that the highly contagious Delta variant—which is responsible for recent Covid surges in Europe—is on track to become the dominant strain in the United States.
The percentage of Manatee County’s population that is fully vaccinated is actually higher than the rate of the U.S. as a whole. Nationally, 44.7% of the population is fully vaccinated, compared to 45.58% in Manatee County.