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Florida’s emergency operations center closes after 12 employees test positive for COVID-19

It will reopen Monday following a deep cleaning.

TALLAHASSEE — Florida officials shut down the state’s emergency operations center on Thursday after 12 staffers tested positive for COVID-19 in recent weeks.

The building, which functions as the state’s command center during statewide emergencies, is closed until Monday and will undergo a deep cleaning, according to the Division of Emergency Management, which operates the center.

The positive cases were discovered after the state started testing employees for COVID-19 twice per week in June. All 12 were not displaying symptoms and passed the building’s screening protocols, which include a questionnaire and temperature checks, according to division Director Jared Moskowitz.

None of them caught the virus from being in the building, and they’re now isolating at home, Moskowitz said.

The center, about 20 minutes from the Capitol, is typically activated during hurricanes and operates around the clock. But state officials activated it in March, after the state reported its first cases of COVID-19.

Since then, staffers, which come from multiple state agencies, have been working around the clock to procure and distribute medical supplies around the state and, recently, dispatching nurses to hospitals that need them, Moskowitz said.

The center has been at Level 1 — its highest level — longer than for any other disaster. To help state workers adapt, officials have allowed them time off and to bring their dogs to work.

“There’s no light at the end of the tunnel for them,” Moskowitz said.

Until the center reopens on Monday, staffers are working from home or at their individual offices nearby. Moskowitz said those private offices are safer than the emergency operations center, which mostly consists of a large, shared workspace.

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