CLEARWATER — Pinellas County Marketing and Communications has confirmed reports that a county employee recently tested positive for the coronavirus.
In a message to its media partners sent out Monday afternoon, Communications staff explained how public information about government employees testing positive for COVID-19 would be handled.
“We understand there will be increased public interest as workers who are normally in the public eye become increasingly affected by COVID-19, and will balance that interest with the need to protect the medical privacy of our employees,” the email said.
Information the county says it will provide includes “confirmation of any new cases of COVID-19 within the workforce and confirmation that safety protocols are being followed using guidance from the Department of Health.”
Protocol for an employee who tests positive but had no exposure to others is to connect that individual with DOH resources and place them on a 14-isolation period.
If an employee who tests positive had direct exposure to coworkers or the public, DOH epidemiology will initiate a notification process. The county will follow DOH recommendations, including a 14-day quarantine for any employees that were directly exposed. DOH also has resources for any member of the public that has concerns about exposure.
“We appreciate your understanding as we balance public interest with the need to protect an individual's medical history and comply with all applicable privacy laws,” county staff said in the email. “To that end, we will not disclose or confirm names, photos, videos and/or medical condition of any affected employee, and we may not be able to confirm the department/division for which they work if doing so would directly expose the employee by virtue of natural deduction."
An example was given of a division that only had a handful of employees.
The county provided no further details about the employee that tested positive.
However, the Tampa Bay Times reported that the person worked in the county’s stormwater division. The Times also reported that the employee had last worked on March 26 and that all other employees (exposed) were staying home until April 9.
The building where the employees worked was disinfected on April 3, and the employee’s vehicle would be disinfected.
Communications said in its email that Pinellas County had “significantly adjusted operations to facilitate work from home for as many employees as possible to minimize risk. In addition, increased sanitation services are being used in areas of frequent use.
Social distancing requirements hare being followed whenever possible. Some services are now only available by phone or online. Video conferencing is being used to minimize contact.
“We are doing as much as possible to ensure reduced risk for exposures by both our workforce and our public and customers,” the email said. “Our departments are also actively reviewing their continuity of operations plans to be able to respond and adjust to COVID-19 should it directly impact staffing within their departments.”
Tampa Bay Newspapers asked County Administrator Barry Burton about safety measures being taken for employees who can’t work from home in an email on April 1. He acknowledged that some employees must continue to come to work to keep essential services running.
“We have to make sure the public can flush the toilet and receive water at their home and business,” he said.
He pointed out that each department has very different functions, so additional safety measures had been implemented across all departments, including social distancing as much as possible.
“I very much appreciate all the hard work our employees are doing to keep essential services running during this difficult time,” Burton said.
Detention deputy tests positive
Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office recently confirmed that a detention deputy had tested positive for COVID-19.
In a press release sent out April 4, the sheriff’s office said the deputy had last worked at the jail on March 19. DOH investigated and all inmates and staff the deputy came into contact were identified and screened. None had symptoms.
The deputy was recovering and would remain out of work for the foreseeable future, the sheriff’s office said.
“There is no indication anyone else at the jail is at risk,” the press release said.