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Fort Lauderdale Mayor Criticized for Not Quarantining After Coronavirus Exposure

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis
Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis

After 12 City of Fort Lauderdale employees recently tested positive for the novel coronavirus, nearly 30 others have been asked to quarantine for two weeks after being exposed.

One city worker who's not staying home?

Mayor Dean Trantalis.

Despite the fact that Trantalis and his chief of staff were among the city workers who'd been exposed, the mayor — who is up for reelection — has been out on the campaign trail this week, defying the quarantine orders suggested by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

Kevin Cochrane, a four-year resident of Fort Lauderdale, tells New Times he was startled to see the mayor out and about.

"I actually ran into the mayor when he wasn't wearing a mask, and then, right when I got home, [I] went on Facebook and saw that he had actually been at a campaign event the day before, where he also was seen breaking quarantine, being clustered around two dozen kids who may or may not even know if he was exposed or not," Cochrane says.

Trantalis tells New Times that neither he nor his chief of staff have experienced any symptoms and have both tested negative for the virus.

"We feel we have followed the necessary protocols to ensure the safety of others," Trantalis says. "No one I have been around has contracted the virus in the last ten days. We all practice safe measures, keeping distances, as well as wearing masks everywhere. We don't feel that the community has in any way been put at risk. The incident at City Hall is isolated — just the city manager's office — and I feel we have done everything that is appropriate to stop the spread of the virus."

The outbreak at City Hall was reported by news media on Tuesday, October 27. City Manager Chris Lagerbloom confirmed that he had tested positive for the virus one week earlier, on Tuesday, October 20. The day before — Monday, October 19 — Lagerbloom had attended meetings alongside Trantalis and his chief of staff, according to the Sun Sentinel. The mayor told the newspaper they had followed proper protocols, including wearing masks and maintaining a six-foot social distance.

Four days after the city manager tested positive for the virus, the mayor participated in a beach cleanup with students from Dillard High School. And this Wednesday afternoon — nine days after the meeting with Lagerbloom — Trantalis was pictured with his mask pulled down while standing next to Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Steven Glassman at the groundbreaking for a new housing project.

Although Trantalis says he tested negative, CDC guidelines, which the city often promotes, say that people who were exposed to someone with the virus should quarantine for two weeks even if they test negative to account for the two-week incubation period for the illness to possibly develop.

"The CDC basically said in the early days of infection, when you were still infectious, you might not test positive," Cochrane tells New Times. "I think that the city knows this. That's why there were 12 people who did test positive, and there are 30 people that didn't test positive who are quarantined. I mean, they know these guidelines and enforce these guidelines."

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Cochrane says he believes the mayor is setting a bad example for residents.

"I mean, Lagerbloom literally said, 'We are following CDC guidelines.'" At the end of the day, people read that and they say, 'Oh, well, the mayor was exposed, but he tested [negative], so he could do whatever he wants' — and that's the wrong message," Cochrane says. "Like, if you were exposed, you should quarantine."

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