Florida temporarily shutters emergency operations center after 12 employees contract COVID-19

Officials in Florida were forced to shutter the Division of Emergency Management's operations center Thursday due to an outbreak of coronavirus.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that 12 staffers in the building have tested positive for COVID-19, and were self-quarantining. The rest will reportedly vacate the building as it is deep-cleaned, according to the Times.

"We’ve been conducting biweekly testing at the EOC for several weeks & mandated masks. The Division has had several positives throughout that period. Those individuals have been isolated while we continue to test. We also instituted teleworking at the EOC & remain at a level 1," the agency said on Twitter.

ADVERTISEMENT

"The safety of my employees and their families is paramount. It is why we have had aggressive screening, temperature checks, since February, Mandatory masks and testing. We will continue to operate and respond throughout this period," added Jared Moskowitz, the agency's director. "We are all in this together."

ADVERTISEMENT

Florida has emerged as an epicenter of new U.S. coronavirus infections in recent days as a surge of hospitalizations and new cases threaten to overwhelm hospitals across the state.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisFlorida breaks COVID-19 hospitalization record with more than 10,200 patients 'Freedom-loving' conservatives stoked latest round of infection and death Florida reports record 21,000 COVID-19 cases in single day, highest since start of pandemic MORE (R) has rejected any notion that the state will shut down nonessential businesses again.

"We're open. We know who we need to protect. Most of the folks in those younger demographics, although we want them to be mindful of what's going on, are just simply much much less at risk than the folks who are in those older age groups," he said.

The state reported more than 15,000 new cases in one 24-hour period Sunday, the highest number of new cases it has seen in such a period since the pandemic began.