Dozens of FHP employees self-isolating amid coronavirus

More than 40 Florida Highway Patrol employees are self-isolating because of exposure to the novel coronavirus, including three state troopers who tested positive for COVID-19, a spokesman confirmed to The News Service of Florida on Thursday.

Employees have self-isolated after coming into close contact with people who tested positive for COVID-19, the contagious respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus. Others have self-isolated because they traveled to virus hotspots or were exposed to people who traveled to those areas.

The News Service reported on Tuesday that the three troopers had tested positive.

Aaron Keller, communications director for the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, which includes the highway patrol, said “just over 40 state troopers and civilian employees” were in self-isolation as of Thursday.

It is unclear where all of the employees work or how many could have been exposed to the virus while on the job. But Keller said the troopers who tested positive are part of Troop E in Miami, Troop L in Lake Worth and Troop I in Panama City.

“In each case, the Florida Highway Patrol immediately engaged with local health officials and followed self-isolation guidelines,” Keller said in a statement Tuesday.

Keller said employees were self-isolating for a number of reasons, including exposure at work or home to people who tested positive. Other reasons include traveling to areas that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified as having “community spread” of the disease or being exposed to someone who traveled to those areas.

“The health and safety of the public and our employees remains our top priority, and the Florida Highway Patrol is following current CDC guidance for law enforcement,” Keller said in a statement.

Those guidelines say employees should wash their hands, maintain a distance of at least six feet from other people when possible, have trained emergency-medical service workers assess the transportation to health-care facilities of anyone who may have the virus and ensure only trained employees with appropriate protective gear come into contact with people who are suspected of having the virus.

Federal guidelines also recommend such things as officers cleaning and disinfecting their uniforms.

The Florida Highway Patrol has more than 2,000 employees, including sworn officers and other employees. 

During the coronavirus outbreak, troopers have helped check motorists who are entering Florida from Connecticut, Louisiana, New Jersey and New York, areas that have seen large numbers of cases.

In an executive order issued last week, Gov. Ron DeSantis mandated all visitors from those hotspots to isolate for 14 days upon entry to Florida or for the duration of their visits, depending on what time period is shorter.