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PB, Broward Sheriff’s Officers Among Youngest to Die of COVID-19


Two South Florida law enforcement officers in their 30s died over the weekend from coronavirus.

First, 39-year-old Broward Sheriff’s Deputy Shannon Bennett passed away late Friday evening, a week after he was diagnosed, the Sheriff’s Office announced Saturday.

Later on Saturday, the Palm Beach County Sheriff Office announced that 38-year-old Sgt. Jose Diaz Ayala, who had been dealing with other health issues, had also died of COVID-19.

Bennett, who was a 12-year veteran of the Broward Sheriff’s force, had been a school resource officer at Deerfield Beach Elementary School since January 2019, according to Sheriff Gregory Tony.

Diaz Ayala had worked as a corrections deputy in Palm Beach County until being promoted to sergeant in January 2016.

The men became two of the youngest people to die of the virus in the state. Only four percent of the patients who have died were younger than age 45, according to the state health department.

In addition, among Broward County’s coronavirus-related deaths, Bennett was only the third person under age 40. Meanwhile, Diaz Ayala was the youngest to die in Palm Beach County.

A photo on the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office Facebook page shows emergency responders at JFK Medical Center along with a gurney covered by the American flag and a photo of Diaz Ayala.

“We love you and know you are all doing the very best,” the Sheriff’s Office wrote.

Bennett called off sick from work on March 23 and checked into a hospital the next day. He tested positive for COVID-19 on March 27, Tony said.

The sheriff added it is unclear how or when Bennett contracted the virus, as schools had closed 10 days before he became sick.

Most younger people with the virus experience mild symptoms, if they notice symptoms at all.

As far as those who experience severe symptoms or do not survive, health officials believe those patients could receive a larger exposure to the virus. They could also have underlying medical conditions, such as heart disease, lung disease, hypertension or diabetes, or an immune system weakened by lack of sleep or poor nutrition.

As of Saturday afternoon, 11,545 people in Florida had tested positive for the virus, with an official death toll of 195.

Palm Beach County has more deaths than any county in the state with 35, followed by 32 in Broward and 31 in Miami-Dade. In addition, Miami-Dade had 3,890 cases as of Saturday evening. Broward had 1,765 and Palm Beach County had 954.