SUNRISE, Fla. – It’s not only the deputies, but Broward Sheriff’s Office civilian employees who are fighting the coronavirus while doing their jobs.
Authorities say 35 BSO employees have tested positive for COVID-19. Local 10 News has learned that a number of those cases have come from dispatch centers — 911 operators and communications controllers. And some of those employees have now been hospitalized.
“I only know of a couple that are in serious condition — that are in the hospital and are pretty much fighting for their lives,” said Sgt. Anthony Marciano, Director of the Federation of Public Employees union.
There are three dispatch centers in Broward County, and sources say there are more than a dozen coronavirus cases between them. The dispatch center in Sunrise was hit the hardest, and employees there were evacuated from their office again Monday afternoon.
“The numbers are constantly changing. Just yesterday we were at 20 [infected employees], now we’re at 28,” Sheriff Gregory Tony said Monday afternoon before the numbers indeed rose again. “More tests are coming back. We may be at 40 by the end of the day.”
Tony went on to say that their ability to test employees is “really reliant on our ability to acquire testing kits.”
However, sources say that safety measures weren’t implemented until a few days ago.
“In communications, they didn’t take those steps right away,” Marciano said. “We were imploring them that they need to isolate people who had direct contact with that employee. They choose to bring these people back to work and not let them isolate and go get tested.”
Dispatch center operators worked in close quarters, with personal protective equipment hard to come by.
“We understand that there is a nationwide shortage in all kinds of PPE,” Marciano said. “We just feel that BSO needs to do everything possible to get their hands on as much as possible. And right now I don’t think they’re doing that.”
BSO said that it maintains a level of personal protective equipment but that they need to consider the long term and use their resources sparingly.
They said civilian personnel are now working from home whenever possible and practical. And all employees are being screened before entering any BSO building.
BSO is still mourning the loss of deputy Shannon Bennett who died from the virus last week.