Florida State Rep. Chris Latvala (R-Clearwater) announced Sunday he has tested positive for COVID-19 after holding a campaign event and touring a child-welfare facility last week.
Latvala, 38, had daily temperature checks and wore masks at both events, he said in a text message. He believes he was likely exposed during a separate instance on Aug. 23, when he had close contact with someone who later tested positive for the virus. That instance happened after the Aug. 22 campaign event and two days before a tour of a child welfare facility run by Lutheran Services Florida.
All who were potentially exposed have been notified “out of an abundance of caution,” he said in a text message to the Tampa Bay Times.
Latvala, who has represented the 67th District that includes Clearwater and Largo since 2014, first announced the diagnosis on Facebook: “Yesterday, 3,197 Floridians tested positive for COVID-19. I was one of them,” he wrote Sunday afternoon. He had been experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 for about two days and self-isolating since Wednesday. He is currently at Largo Medical Center and expects his stay to be a short one, he wrote.
“My symptoms vary. This pandemic is not over but we will get through it,” he wrote. “Keep wearing masks, social distancing, and washing your hands frequently.”
Posts from his Instagram and Twitter on Aug. 22 showed Latvala and more than two dozen volunteers participating in outdoor campaign activities for the upcoming Nov. 3 election.
One post showed Latvala standing shoulder-to-shoulder with masked supporters holding campaign signs.
Attendees of the event include Largo Mayor Woody Brown and Republican colleagues Ralph Massullo, Ardian Zika, Will Robinson, Randy Maggard and Melony Bell, all members of the Florida legislature.
When asked about the event, Latvala said he followed CDC guidelines and made his own campaign masks to give out to people.
“If you look at the pictures, we are wearing masks. Myself included. Per CDC guidelines. When we met for lunch after we sat outside,” he wrote in a text. “I have always taken precautions and have told people to do the same.”
COVID-19 guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend people wear masks in public setting, “especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain” because they can help contain the spread of the virus.
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Largo Mayor Woody Brown said most people who attended the event wore a mask or kept their distance. “I teamed up with two other volunteers and walked a Largo neighborhood that I am familiar with,” he wrote in an email. “I primarily walked by myself - the other two walked parallel streets.”
His only contact with Latvala was a fist bump with masks on, Brown said.
On Aug. 26, Lutheran Services Florida posted a Twitter message with photos that thanked Latvala for touring their facility and meeting the team. Latvala said the tour occurred the day before, on Aug. 25.
This is a developing story. Stay with tampabay.com for updates.