Sheriff's officials in one Florida county say they're not disciplining employees who knowingly came to work after either testing positive for COVID-19 or experienced symptoms.
On Aug. 3, Sarasota Sheriff's Office Maj. Jon Goetluck sent an email asking employees to stay home if they felt ill, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported. The email included a list of COVID precautions to employees about handwashing and staying home when ill.
On Aug. 12, he said he resent that email “because we are still having employees coming into work with symptoms and exposing other employees and then testing positive 2-3 days later," the newspaper reported.
He sent a third email Aug. 18 after cases continued to increase.
“It appears that we still have personnel coming to work sick, to include some that have tested positive,” Goetluck's email said. “I wasn’t going to publicize our numbers to avoid unnecessary panic, but I find it necessary to do so.”
On Tuesday, the agency reported 93 employees were out sick, and that 57 had tested positive for COVID-19, according to the newspaper.
But those who came to work after testing positive or while feeling ill won't face any repercussions, sheriff’s spokeswoman Kaitlyn Perez told the newspaper.
Perez clarified in an email to The Associated Press that four employees who either showed symptoms or tested positive stayed out of work but were unclear on the return-to-work policy and did not follow proper protocol to return. One employee from the agency's communications center returned to work 10 days after testing positive for COVID-19 but didn't notify the agency’s health and safety office or get clearance from a medical doctor.
“This employee is not being disciplined based on their misunderstanding of a constantly evolving policy," Perez said.
The highly contagious delta variant has led to an acceleration in cases around Florida and record high hospitalizations. By mid-August more than 21,000 new cases were being added per day, compared with about 8,500 a month earlier. The state said 16,820 people were hospitalized on Tuesday, down from a record of more than 17,000 last week.
Perez said the agency is not implementing any additional measures such as mandatory masks. She said the same safety protocols already in place before are still strongly encouraged.
The agency does not keep track of vaccinations, nor does it require employees to be vaccinated, she told the newspaper.
Follow more of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic