18 percent of Panama City Beach’s workforce tests positive for COVID

Panama City Beach

PANAMA CITY BEACH Fla. (WMBB) — The COVID-19 pandemic is still around us and right now the Panama City Beach workforce is taking a big hit.

Since the holiday season, the city has had almost 18 percent of its 350 employees test positive for the virus.

COVID fatigue may be setting in across the nation, but Panama City Beach City Manager, Tony O’Rourke said now is not the time to forget about the dangers of the virus. 

“We’ve had almost 18 percent of our employees test positive for COVID that’s twice the bay county average, the state average, and the national average,” O’Rourke said. 

O’Rourke said the numbers are problematic since the positivity rate must be below five percent to be considered under control.

With the fire and police departments in close quarters, the virus spread the quickest among those two groups. Battalion Chief, Tim Smith, said they have been lucky enough to not have a whole house catch the virus, but it does spread fast. 

“We’ve had lower numbers here lately but during the holiday season from Thanksgiving to Christmas it was affecting about five or six people at a time,” Smith said. 

Since the city’s services are considered essential they must keep them going. O’Rourke said there could be restrictions in the coming months.

“We’ve got to continue to do our job but it is hard when people are falling off getting sick or having to quarantine so we need to continue to be vigilant,” O’Rourke said. 

He said the virus has also had a major effect on the city’s economy with fewer people visiting the beach over the holidays.

But he’s hopeful that things will get better if everyone does their part.

“With the vaccine being distributed at a rapid pace we can all hopefully look back at this by early summer and say ‘wow we survived that,’” O’Rourke said.

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