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Staffer for Florida congressman dies from COVID-19

A longtime staffer for Rep. Vern BuchananVernon Gale BuchananMORE (R-Fla.) died from the coronavirus on Friday, the congressman announced, becoming the first known congressional aide to die from the illness.

Buchanan said in a statement that he was “devastated” by the death of Gary Tibbetts, a field representative who had been a member of the congressman's staff since 2011.

Tibbetts, 66, a retired police officer, died at a Florida hospital.

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“Gary was the consummate professional and a true public servant in every sense of the word,” Buchanan said in his statement.

“He touched so many lives and was loved and respected by those who knew him. I will never forget his uplifting spirit, sense of humor and sheer joy at helping others,” Buchanan added.

Buchanan had first announced on July 15 that Tibbetts had been hospitalized with COVID-19 and was in stable condition. Neither Buchanan nor any of his other staff had been in recent contact with Tibbetts, his office said at the time.

The death comes amid an alarming spike in coronavirus cases in Florida, which underwent an aggressive reopening earlier this year and has been forced to roll back its plan amid the surge. The state reported more than 12,000 new cases on Thursday alone.