SUNRISE, Fla. – An email obtained by Local 10 News shows the worry some dispatchers at the Broward Sheriff's Office have felt as more of their co-workers contracted COVID-19.
Those dispatchers say the sheriff's office put their health at risk by not following the necessary precautions.
One dispatcher has died and dozens more got sick.
Much has changed at the sheriff's office since the coronavirus pandemic began, according to BSO's Civilian Employee Union President Anthony Marciano.
But as COVID-19 first picked up speed, and kept spreading, 9-1-1 dispatchers kept working.
Internal letters and emails show there were concerns from the start.
Masks also weren’t required until the crisis was well underway, and social distancing was encouraged but not fully enforced.
So far, 44 dispatch workers have contracted COVID-19, and one lost her life.
Nikima Thompson, a mother of four, died in early May.
Marciano says personal protective equipment was hard to come by, but that was across the board.
The letter sent to BSO cites an egregious lack of foresight and preparation.
Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony releasing a lengthy statement, laying out the agency’s efforts, starting in mid-February, to prepare for the coronavirus.
Here is the sheriff's statement:
"In the midst of an unprecedented crisis and an uncertain landscape, we did our best to address issues immediately. We followed the health guidelines from both local and nationally recognized authorities. This was BSO’s - and every other public safety agency’s - first encounter with a global pandemic of this magnitude. Our operational decisions have been guided by the concern for the health and safety of our employees and the public and the need to maintain mission readiness in all areas of service.
"The spread of COVID-19 into the communications workforce happened quickly. We did not see any decline in service or response times due to the implementation of additional protective measures. While in hindsight our initial efforts were not optimal, as guidance changed over time, we learned along with the rest of the country and enhanced our efforts and procedures.
“The lessons learned in those first weeks of the pandemic have helped us adapt so that BSO employees are safe throughout the many upcoming months the virus will still be active, while providing the best public safety to Broward County.”