First Responders Cope With Unique Challenges, Dangers During Coronavirus Pandemic

The Chicago Police Department reported that a detective tested positive for the virus this week

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Despite extensive precautions and contingency plans, Chicago firefighters and police officers knew it was only a matter of time before one of their colleagues tested positive for coronavirus, and now both departments have reported positive tests.

Just days after a Chicago firefighter tested positive for the illness, a Chicago police detective tested positive for coronavirus on Thursday.

“We’ve been spending the last several days planning,” CPD Spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said. “Contingency planning for not if, but when, we would have our first case.”

The detective began to experience symptoms earlier this week, according to Guglielmi, and is now under a physician’s care.

“We have sanitized the area where this member works and we’ve sanitized every police car that he had been driving in,” Guglielmi said.

Meanwhile, CFD is dealing with two cases of its own. An ambulance paramedic is now in self-quarantine at home, and a shift supervisor also has the disease. Authorities believe the supervisor may have contracted it from a neighbor.

For first responders in other areas, the fear of being diagnosed with coronavirus is always in the background, but they are focused on their jobs.

“There’s lots of things on the job that can kill you,” Naperville Police Officer Will Kovarik said. “Complacency is one of them, so we put this in the back of our brain. Adjust a little bit on how we respond to stuff. You can’t really let it affect how you do your job.”

Naperville police have reported no cases in the department, and the department has recently enhanced personal protective equipment for their officers.

For firefighters in Evanston, it’s all about taking proper precautions when responding to calls of someone with coronavirus symptoms.

“We’re putting masks on,” firefighter Phil Mosberg said. “We have gowns, eye protection, etc. We’ve kicked that up a little bit.”

The calls departments are responding to are a bit different too.

“Unless there appears to be a criminal (connection), then police detectives will not respond to those scenes,” Guglielmi said. “We may not address things in a physical arrest. There are other tools that officers can use with low level crimes.”

Guglielmi said that when CPD receives a call for a police emergency, dispatchers are asking a series of questions to callers. Those questions include whether the caller, or anyone in the vicinity, is experiencing respiratory distress, and if the caller answers affirmatively, a specialized team responds to those calls.

“Those officers will have PPE’s, and then we have a small amount given to every district just in case a beat officer comes in contact with an individual experiencing symptoms,” he said.

As for the positive test of the Chicago police detective, Guglielmi said that multiple officers who worked with the detective are now being monitored. Interim Police Superintendent Charlie Beck is conducting multiple meetings every day to try to keep the department ahead of the disease.

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