45 Aurora cops, firefighters quarantined, isolated due to possible COVID-19 exposure

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AURORA | More than 50 staffers with the Aurora Police Department and Aurora Fire Rescue are currently prevented from working due to possible or confirmed exposure to COVID-19, officials said Thursday.

There are currently 20 Aurora police officers quarantined or isolated at home because either they or a family member exhibited symptoms related to the new coronavirus, Interim Police Chief Vanessa Wilson said on a call with city officials Thursday. Another nine civilian police workers in the dispatch center, records unit and property section are also quarantined or isolated.

Fire Chief Fernando Gray confirmed there are currently 25 Aurora firefighters away from the job because they are either confirmed to have COVID-19, awaiting test results and asymptomatic. Gray did not confirm how many firefighters are confirmed to have contracted the disease caused by the viral infection.

The losses account for roughly 3 percent of the sworn police force and 7 percent of the fire department.

About a dozen of the currently quarantined fire workers are slated to return to duty tomorrow, March 27.

Per federal guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Aurora first responders are permitted to return to work after they’ve been symptom free — clear of fever and respiratory symptoms without mitigating medication — for 72 hours. The return to work must also be at least seven days removed from the time symptoms began.

Because most firefighters in the city double as paramedics and health care workers, any staffers who had displayed symptoms of the disease will be required to wear a face mask for two weeks upon returning to work, Gray said.

Any city worker who is exhibiting symptoms of the virus will continue to be paid and will not be docked sick time, according to the city’s human resources department.

The lack of firefighters in the city’s 16 fire stations has strained resources by way of increasing the need for healthy staffers to work overtime, according to Gray.

“There has been an impact on overtime,” he said. “What that looks like in the big scope of things, I don’t have that data yet, but, again, we’re compiling the information.”

Deputy City Manager Jason Batchelor said following the end of a two-week pay period on Friday, the city will diligently track how much overtime is being used this pay cycle.

Batchelor added that the $2.2 trillion federal aid package awaiting approval in the U.S. House could provide funding to cover overtime wages incurred during the pandemic. He said staff will comb through the details of the pending legislation in the coming weeks.

Wilson said the police department has yet to see a spike in overtime due to quarantined workers. She said the department has so far only had to arrange one overtime shift to cover for a quarantined cop.

“Surprisingly, our staffing is doing really well,” she said. ” … We’re not seeing an increase in overtime due to this.”

She said a paucity of patrol cops on the street and police dispatchers are could prove particularly problematic.

“Patrol and our dispatchers are most impacted because we can’t utilize them from home, and so they are on the front lines,” Wilson said. ” … So they are the highest risk as well as the highest impacted.”

The police department has contingency plans in place to supplement a potential dearth of patrolmen with officers from across the agency, such as school resource officers who are currently away from their assigned schools.

Fire personnel are taking the temperature of firefighters at the beginning of each shift, Gray said. The same protocol has yet to be enacted but is currently being explored for police officers and other city staffers.

All Aurora cops and firefighters have been provided at least an N95 respirator and protective gloves, chiefs said. Eye protection and gowns are also available in necessary situations.

Officials have said the city currently has a sufficient supply of personal protective equipment for first responders.