Of the six known exposures that occurred around the same time, at least four people have reportedly been hospitalized and two have died. One of those people died last week in the hospital, while the other one died at home, Dr. Scott Hopes, a county administrator and epidemiologist, told CNN’s Erin Burnett.
“That’s a 40% case fatality rate,” Hopes told Bay News 9. “That’s a high fatality rate.”
In all, five of the six people got sick ― and none of them were vaccinated, according to Hopes. “This particular outbreak demonstrates the effectiveness, I believe, with the vaccine,” he said. “All of the cases were non-vaccinated. They were unvaccinated.”
Three additional county workers tested positive for the virus over the weekend, after the county closed the building Friday afternoon for an emergency deep cleaning. According to Fox 13 News, none of them were vaccinated either.
About 700 people work in the nine-story building each day.
“My suspicion as an epidemiologist is that we’re dealing with a variant unlike what we had last year,” Hopes said in a video press conference Monday. “This appeared to behave like the delta variant. They’re waiting on confirmation on what variant they’re dealing with.”
The delta variant was first detected in India in December 2020 and has been responsible for a massive surge in cases and deaths there. The mutation is more transmissible than other strains of the coronavirus, and is thought to cause more severe cases of COVID. It now represents a growing share of coronavirus infections in the U.S.
A Manatee County spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to questions Tuesday about which variant, if any, was ultimately identified there.
Hopes noted that the two people who died were under the age of 60, in contrast to many of the COVID-19 deaths earlier in the pandemic, when mortality rates were especially high among the elderly.
Manatee County reopened the building Monday. In a release, the county said unvaccinated individuals will be encouraged, but not required, to wear masks.