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First responders see rise in virus cases as Delta surges in Tampa Bay

The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office reported 39 cases Wednesday among inmates at the Land O’ Lakes Detention Center, compared to six in all of June.
Because of absences from a COVID-19 resurgence, Hillsborough County Fire Rescue is calling in firefighters who don't usually work at fire stations in order to fill its shifts.
Because of absences from a COVID-19 resurgence, Hillsborough County Fire Rescue is calling in firefighters who don't usually work at fire stations in order to fill its shifts.
Published Jul. 29

Some first responders and at least one jail in the Tampa Bay area are seeing a rise in COVID-19 cases as the highly contagious Delta variant spreads across Florida.

Hillsborough Fire Rescue has more firefighters out with the virus than at any point since it first broke out 18 months ago, said Hillsborough County spokesperson Chris Wilkerson. The county is filling shifts by bringing in certified firefighters who work in positions outside fire stations.

The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office reported 39 cases Wednesday among inmates at the Land O’ Lakes Detention Center compared to six in all of June. All inmates are tested upon arrival and must wear masks outside housing areas.

“As the population of the facility rapidly overturns, it is usually reflective of current community trends in positive tests,” said sheriff’s spokesperson Amanda Hunter.

There have been 392 total positive cases among inmates in Pasco County since the start of the pandemic, Hunter said. Pasco County is currently offering COVID-19 vaccines to inmates.

No information about cases among sheriff’s staff was available, she said.

Nationally, new COVID-19 cases are increasing at the rate they did during the start of the pandemic 18 months ago, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fewer than 9,000 new single-day cases were reported in late June but the number rose by July 22 to more than 66,000.

The spike is largely attributed to the spread of the more contagious Delta variant. The CDC changed its stand Tuesday to recommend that even fully vaccinated people wear a mask indoors in certain situations.

In June, the St. Petersburg Police Department recorded two COVID-19 cases among its staff. By Tuesday, the number for the month of July was 12, said spokesperson Yolanda Fernandez. A few hours later, Fernandez said the number had jumped to 14, and by Thursday morning, 15.

St. Petersburg Fire Rescue has seen a small rise in cases, but no numbers were available, spokesperson Steve Lawrence said.

In the city of Clearwater, there have been 10 cases during July within the Police Department compared to two in June, and four compared to one in Fire Rescue, the Human Resources Department said.

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office reported only four inmates at the county jail have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Monday. By Thursday, the number had dropped to two.

Pinellas County inmates also are tested when they arrive at the jail and numbers there have fluctuated little, said sheriff’s spokeswoman Amanda Sinni. The office could not provide the number of cases among sheriff’s employees.

Tampa Fire Rescue also reported no major increases.

“We’ve been fortunate to currently not reflect the trend among the general public,” Capt. John Bogush said. “Tampa Fire Rescue has stringent policies in place when responding to calls for assistance that mandate appropriate protective equipment.”

The number of personnel taking days off for any illness dropped from June to July, Bogush said.

By Thursday afternoon, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office had not responded to a request for its numbers that was submitted two days earlier.