Three DJs at St. Petersburg hip-hop station Wild 94.1, including program director Orlando Davis, have tested positive for COVID-19.
Davis, the host of Orlando and the Freakshow, and DJs Broderick “Buckwheat” Scott and Jose “Joey Franchize” Alvarado all announced their positive tests on social media.
The station, owned by Beasley Media Group, last week sent out a staff memo stating that an employee in the building had tested positive, Davis and Alvarado said. At that point, Wild and other Beasley stations — including 99.5 QYK, 98.7 the Shark, 92.5 Maxima and Q105 — closed their office in the Baypoint Commerce Center, 9600 Koger Blvd. in St. Petersburg, to all but essential employees.
In a statement, Beasley spokeswoman Heidi Raphael said the company had implemented a reopening plan that conformed to state and federal guidance and requirements.
“The gradual return of employees to the workplace provides most of our staff the ability to work from home either on a full-time or staggered basis,” the statement read. “Our return to work policies include social distancing protocols, heightened cleaning and disinfecting measures, required self-monitoring for COVID symptoms and a mandatory quarantining where instances of exposure or potential exposure have occurred in the office.”
Until June 10, on-air personalities were allowed to broadcast from the studio. Davis said staff had been careful to sanitize all equipment throughout the pandemic, but as the state began to reopen, it became harder to maintain social distancing.
“With more staff coming back, with more people going back out and joining society, it just seemed like it wasn’t as controlled as it was when we were on lockdown and on minimal staff,” Davis said.
Davis, Scott and Alvarado have not been on the air together, but did share studio space.
“I don’t know where that patient zero came from," said Davis, who added he’s been asymptomatic so far. "I just know that in succession, (the other DJs) were kind of the domino effect. Luckily we haven’t had any more happen. Everybody else is getting negatives.”
Alvarado, 33, said he’s been feeling “pretty alright” since his test at Tampa General Hospital came back positive June 10 — he’s lost his senses of taste and smell, but hasn’t had a high fever or other major aches. Since then, he said he’s been holed up at his place in downtown Tampa with his girlfriend, who also tested positive, taking vitamin tablets and drinking Gatorade, orange juice and Theraflu.
On June 12, Scott wrote on Facebook that he got tested after exhibiting mild symptoms, and was “coming to the tail end of my 14 days.”
“I’m good, but want to wish those here in the city a speedy recovery like I did without the going to the hospital,” Scott wrote.
Radio studios can be incubators for disease during normal cold and flu seasons, Davis said, with DJs in close quarters projecting into shared microphones.
“If somebody goes on the mic and is rambunctious," he said, “it’s probably as violent a result as if somebody goes out to a protest and is screaming, ‘Black Lives Matter’ or, ‘Yes we can,’ or, ‘Let’s get out and vote’ or, ‘Hey, it’s Pride.' Whatever we’re screaming, we’re projecting those germs at a rapid rate. So if people aren’t protecting themselves, they end up with something else.”
This month, Davis has attended Black Lives Matter protests in St. Petersburg and Tampa, as well as a June 9 speaking engagement at the Rialto Theatre in Tampa.
Some, like Alvarado, also have side gigs as club DJs. He has worked weekend brunches at downtown St. Petersburg nightclub Park and Rec, most recently on June 6. Over the weekend, Park and Rec, along with downtown bars the Galley and the Avenue, decided to close after employees tested positive for the coronavirus.
Alvarado said he wasn’t initially worried about being in crowded bars, but now realizes he was perhaps “being naive.”
“I was going about it nonchalantly, and I just felt like, if everything’s going to reopen, that’s a good sign, right?” he said. “After I got through the first week, it was like, ‘Nothing happened; oh, nothing happened this week either. Everything’s cool. We’re kind of in the clear.’ It’s only when you actually face it that it becomes, like, ‘Oh, wow, I can get it. I wish I would have taken proper precautions in certain things that I did.’"
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