AURORA | Interim Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson on Thursday issued a special order outlining when the city’s cops should isolate or quarantine themselves if they or someone they contact is suspected or confirmed to have contracted COVID-19.
In an effort to prevent the virus from slashing police staffing levels, the order grants police supervisors discretion in determining whether cops should remove themselves from work to isolate or quarantine.
“The Tri-County Health Department has recognized in a law enforcement setting that sending every person home for 14 days who may have low-risk exposure (no direct droplet exchange) to a potential COVID-19 patient could quickly result in zero staff,” the order reads. “They recognize that with the relatively large amount of assumed community spread, the lack of testing, and the length of time it can take to get test results, it would be next to impossible to wait for test results or use the fact that someone was in proximity to a suspected COVID-19 patient to make the decision to send someone home.”
The order describes a triage system for police workers who may come into contact with COVID-19 patients on the job. Cops who believe they have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for the viral infection “must contact their supervisor who will determine the extent of the exposure,” the order reads.
Workers who incur “significant exposure,” such as contact with blood, phlegm or saliva from a suspected COVID-19 patient, are instructed to contact their doctor for immediate guidance.
Officers with minimal exposure to a possibly sick person, such as using the same car as a person who later ends up in isolation or issuing a ticket to a suspected sick person, “should be allowed to continue to work” absent symptoms, according to the directive.
As of Wednesday evening, 33 Aurora police personnel were either in isolation or quarantine due to confirmed illness, possible exposure to the virus or to care for a sick family member, according to Detective Faith Winter, spokeswoman for the Aurora Police Department. That includes 22 sworn cops and 11 civilian employees in the dispatch, records or property units.
A total of 101 city employees, including police and firefighters, were away from work because of the virus as of Wednesday, according to information provided to Aurora City Council members. That total included 13 firefighters in isolation or quarantine, which is down from 25 members off work last week.
There were 18 Aurora firefighters on leave due to COVID-19 on Thursday, according to Sherri-Jo Stowell, spokeswoman for Aurora Fire Rescue. A total of 41 uniformed firefighters have had to miss work because of the virus, though 23 of those workers have already returned to duty, Stowell said.
Wilson’s order stipulates that police workers who are exhibiting symptoms of the virus “be sent home immediately and (are) instructed to contact their doctor immediately and notify human resources by email.”
Employees who are ill are required to get a note from their physician — not a COVID-19 test — outlining how long they should be in quarantine. The same is required for employees caring for an ill family member.
Cops who exhibit symptoms of the virus but are unable to get tested will not be eligible to return to work until they are seven days removed from the first day their symptoms appeared. They also must be fever-free for three days.
It’s unclear how many Aurora police and fire workers have been tested so far.
Wilson’s order is slated to be in place for one year.