ST. PETERSBURG — He’ll be missed for his smile, and his laugh. His professionalism and his helpful spirit, coworkers said.
And, there’s a possibility he still could have been here, said St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway.
Officer Michael Weiskopf, 52, died Friday “from complications related to COVID-19,” a St. Petersburg Police Department news release said.
Weiskopf had not received a COVID-19 vaccine, said police spokesperson Yolanda Fernandez. Though Weiskopf had resisted getting vaccinated, Fernandez said in an email, “His wife told us that just before he became ill, he was giving serious consideration to getting the vaccine.”
During a Friday press conference following a procession in Weiskopf’s honor, Holloway offered a strong message, urging police officers to get a vaccine.
“If you don’t want to do it for yourself, do it for your family, do it for your co-workers,” he said at a Friday press conference. “But you need to get vaccinated.”
Weiskopf started with the department in 2003 and was assigned to the department’s Traffic Section Crash Investigation Unit. He “leaves behind a grieving wife and extended family,” the news release said.
A police procession escorted Weiskopf’s body from Bayfront Health to Gross Funeral Home on Friday afternoon. About a dozen police vehicles lined the street in front of the hospital around 2 p.m. to pay their respects to Weiskopf, turning onto 8th Street South to follow his hearse and several other law enforcement vehicles.
Members of the department lined 1st Avenue North in front of police headquarters — some saluting as the hearse rolled past — and lowered the flag in front of the building. The procession then headed to Gross Funeral Home.
Kimberly Canfall, 47, and Michelle Gaines, 29, both cardiology medical assistants at Bayfront, stood outside the hospital to pay their respects. “It’s a sad situation,” Canfall said. Gaines said part of the reason she came was because she feels medical workers and law enforcement work in similar fields — they both put their health and lives on the line to help others.
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Sgt. Michael Schade worked with Weiskopf for 17 years and said Weiskopf was the kind of guy who would give someone the shirt off his back.
“He cared about everybody,” Schade told reporters Friday after the procession. “We kind of joked around. He always had to be in the know.”
Funeral services information will be provided once details are finalized, police officials said.
At least 20 Florida law enforcement officers have died from COVID-19 complications, according to a list at the Officer Down Memorial Page, a nonprofit website based in Fairfax, Va. One of them is in the Tampa Bay area — Polk County Sheriff’s Deputy Christopher Broadhead, who died Monday.
The St. Petersburg Police Department recorded 159 positive COVID-19 cases from the time of the outbreak in early 2020 through Aug. 10. But the department is not tracking vaccinations within its ranks.
As of Tuesday, 32 percent of St. Petersburg city employees had voluntarily reported being vaccinated, but that figure is not broken down by department, said Ben Kirby, spokesperson for Mayor Rick Kriseman.
A survey by the Tampa Bay Times earlier this month showed that half of the 12 largest public safety agencies in Tampa Bay could not provide exact coronavirus vaccination rates for their employees because they are not tracking the statistics.
The six agencies that were able to provide an estimate, relying on information that employees provided voluntarily, reported a range of 27 percent to 60 percent vaccinated. Many of the agencies fell below vaccination rates that run just over 60 percent for Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco County as a whole.
Chief Holloway told the Times earlier this month that his department has hosted an in-house vaccination clinic for employees and their family members and posts reminders throughout hallways.
“Yes, I would like to see them vaccinated for the simple reason that we, as public safety employees, encounter many individuals throughout the course of our workday,” Holloway said. “The vaccine provides a layer of protection that may help prevent public safety employees from spreading the virus to others.”
Schade said he had been in contact with Weiskopf’s wife, who also urged people to get the vaccine.
“She doesn’t want people to go through what she’s been through the last month,” Schade said.
As a tight-knit unit, members of Weiskopf’s team rely on each other, Schade said.
“We’re usually the ones providing the comfort,” he said. “And now we’re the ones suffering the tragedy and the loss.”
This is a developing story. Check tampabay.com for updates.
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