8 COVID-19 cases, 2 deaths reported among unvaccinated Manatee County employees

Cleaned from the bottom to the top, the Manatee County Administration Building is back open after a hard week

A sign asks visitors and employees who are still unvaccinated to take precautions.

"My suspicion, as an epidemiologist, is that we are dealing with a variant unlike what we had last year," said Dr. Scott Hopes.

Five people working in the county's IT department caught COVID-19. Four were hospitalized and two died. 

Over the weekend, three additional cases were reported within Port Manatee's Security Department. County Administrator Dr. Scott Hopes said there's one thing the cases had in common.

"This particular outbreak demonstrates the effectiveness, I believe, with the vaccine. All of the cases were non-vaccinated. They were unvaccinated," he said.

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They were unvaccinated and under the age of 60. A 58-year-old female IT manager and 53-year-old Al Cox lost their lives to COVID-19. 

Cox was known in his role as a coach at the 13th Avenue Dream Center.

"It was very difficult. Coach has been so much and every aspect of the ways he gave and gave back to the community," said Derrick Randall, the CEO of the United Community Center of Dream. 

53-year-old Al Cox died after contracting COVID-19

For years, he watched Cox coach on the field, molding the lives of countless children.

"It just felt as if at the end of the day, he was full of time here as well. But he gave all of himself and all the times and he was totally committed to the kids," said Randall.

After the outbreak, the Florida Department of Health - Manatee County stressed the importance of getting vaccinated. Last week they set up a walk-up site at the Palmetto bus station.

"We really need everybody to get on board with this, whether it's vaccination testing, prevention, all of it is so, so, so, so important," said Christopher Tittel with the health department.

The deaths are a sad reminder that COVID-19 is still here, but so is the answer to beating it.

"The vaccinations, they only work if people get vaccinated," said Tittel.