Less than 1% of cops have been diagnosed or quarantined with COVID-19, says commissioner

By KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Less than 1% of Philadelphia police officers have been diagnosed or quarantined with COVID-19, according to Commissioner Danielle Outlaw.

She realizes there is some concern as to why the city won’t release specific information on the number of affected officers, but she said it’s a fine line that they don’t want to cross.

“There is … a very delicate balance between releasing information on a daily basis that could also lead to panic, or people calling in sick because of fear or paranoia,” she said. “Our numbers, fortunately — and I hope it stays this way — are low enough to where I am not concerned about a need to call for mutual aid or finding other ways to staff our traditionally filled positions.”

Outlaw held the first press briefing online since the death of Lt. James Walker, who died from COVID-19 over the weekend. The 33-year veteran of the force had plans to retire in December.

Outlaw said they are continuing to monitor officers’ health.

“There is contact tracing being done. If we believe there is possible exposure, there is cleaning done immediately and we do ask that folks who have been exposed or believe they might have the virus to quarantine, and that has all been pushed out via protocol,” she said.

Even Outlaw has been tested. The results came back negative.

She assured the public that officers are continuously given personal protective equipment, like face masks, sanitizer and gloves. The police union said it is assisting with that effort.

"Sourcing these materials has been very, very difficult," said FOP President John McNesby. "When they arrive at our lodge, we quickly turn them around and prioritize distribution by urgent need throughout the city."

“Specifically, we know if there is an area where there are positives, we immediately go back and disinfect those spaces,” Outlaw added. “When we transport someone, when we make arrests, or whatever it is, there are very clear guidelines on that.”

As far as officers' interactions with the public, other protocols are in place.

“If calls can be handled outside, we are asking that people do that. If they have to make an arrest or go hands-on, or if they cannot utilize a 6-foot distancing rule, we ask that they put on the equipment that is given to them — absolutely when making an arrest, when processing prisoners, they are in full PPE,” she explained. “The only issue is that — and the reason we had to make a tiered approach that way — is because we just don’t have (enough) equipment. … We have to be very smart with how we use it.”