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Cluster of COVID-19 cases identified at Whatcom County Sheriff's Office

The Whatcom County Sheriff says seven personnel have tested positive for COVID-19, and of those seven, five are detectives.

BELLINGHAM, Wash. — Officials at the Whatcom County Sheriff's Office say a number of detectives and other staff have tested positive for COVID-19.

Seven employees of the sheriff's office have tested positive for COVID-19 recently. Of those seven, five are detectives, according to Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo. 

Elfo said it's reflective of the recent surge in cases Whatcom County has experienced in the last several weeks. KING 5 reported Tuesday that COVID-19 cases have been rising rapidly in the county and are hitting record levels for the first time since the pandemic began. 

Elfo said over the last 11 months since the virus hit the region, the sheriff's office has had 11 positive COVID-19 cases, including one case among a corrections employee. None of the employees were hospitalized and all had relatively minor symptoms or were asymptomatic, Elfo said. 

Elfo said the sheriff's office is doing everything it can to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Masks are required in the office and out in the field, except in situations where other officer safety issues preclude their use of the mask or where it would hamper communications.

The sheriff's office also does a good deal of its work remotely, and if possible, calls that don't need personal contact are handled over the phone. 

Officers also practice social distancing as much as possible, but Elfo said there are times where they cannot maintain a physical distance or have to gather in small groups to accomplish their mission. 

"Members of the sheriff's office are urged to exercise prudent precautions and common sense," Elfo wrote to KING 5 via email.

Elfo said they are "anxiously" awaiting the time when law enforcement first responders are eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine. 

RELATED: COVID-19 cases hit record high in Whatcom County, 10 months into pandemic