BRADENTON, Fla. — The Manatee County Administration Building reopened as scheduled Monday morning, after an emergency shutdown was ordered Friday due to an outbreak of COVID-19 cases. 

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In all, five employees of the IT department contracted the virus. Of that group, four were hospitalized and two died last week. 

“That’s a 40% case fatality rate,” said Dr. Scott Hopes, the county administrator. “That’s a high fatality rate.” 

Epidemiologists and the Manatee County Health Department worked to contact trace and now they’re investigating if a variant of the virus may be to blame. 

“My suspicion as an epidemiologist is that we’re dealing with a variant unlike what we had last year,” Hopes said. “This appeared to behave like the delta variant, they’re waiting on confirmation on what variant they’re dealing with.” 

Hopes confirmed that the five affected employees were not vaccinated. 

“In fact, we know one individual in the IT Business Services unit is a 23-year-old employee who is vaccinated, and they had contact with those co-workers and did not contract COVID-19,” Hopes said. 

Friends and family identified one of the victims as longtime Manatee County resident Al Cox. 

He was the athletic director for the Manatee Mustangs and a coach for youth sports for roughly 25 years. He spent countless hours with children at the 13th Ave Dream Center. 

“Me and him had conversations as he was sick. I’d tell him, ‘Hey get off the phone! He was still trying to call and make sure things was getting taken care of,” said Derrick Randall, a longtime friend and colleague at the Dream Center. “It’s so hard to put in words and just express to you how big of a void we’re going to have without Coach Al.” 

The second victim was a loving mother and grandmother. She was 58 years old. 

The county will hold a COVID-19 vaccination clinic for its employees.