PHILADELPHIA - Under the direction of Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw, city officers started wearing masks on-duty Wednesday to combat the spread of coronavirus.
This directive comes as FOX 29's Dave Schratwieser reports that over 300 of the force's 6,500 employees are being monitored for the novel virus and more than 50 have tested positive.
"Our numbers are low enough, I hope it stays that way," Outlaw said. "I’m not concerned we need to call for mutual aid or find other ways to staff."
Cleaning crews in protective gear and masks spent Tuesday evening meticulously trying to sanitize patrol vehicles in the city's traffic division.
"It’s uncharted waters. We don’t know what we’re facing every day,” President of Philadelphia's Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5 John McNesby said.
Across the city, cleaning crews are spraying down patrol cars and the inside of local districts where officers now gather in parking lots to head out on patrol. Sources say even the third floor of police headquarters is being sanitized.
Deputy commissioners are working from home, their vehicles, or remote locations. The city says the commissioner is working from home.
“She’s continuing to work and command the department she oversees,” Brian Abernathy, Philadelphia’s Managing Director, said at a press conference Tuesday.
Sources say the traffic division and officers stationed at the airport have been hardest hit with quarantines and positive test results. Veteran traffic Lt. James Walker passed away Monday from complications related to COVID-19.
“To see it hit that quick and that fast, hit close to home like that. It really woke a lot of people up,” McNesby said.
SEPTA Chief Tom Nestel has been working out his SUV for three weeks now. SEPTA has taken a lot of social distancing measures to limit any spread of the coronavirus among SEPTA officers.
“We haven’t held roll calls. We’re not using our locker rooms. Officers aren’t reporting to their station houses. They’re going directly to their beats,” Chief Nestel said.
SEPTA officials have rented additional cars for police to help respond to calls. City officials would not discuss specific numbers when it comes to the impact of COVID-19 on the police department. They’re focusing on keeping deployment levels across the city high enough to keep residents and officers safe.
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