COVID-19 is Leading Cause of Death of Law Enforcement Officers in 2020
From the Officer Down Memorial Page September 2020 End of Watch Report, there are 212 line of duty deaths which is a 91% increase from the same time last year. Of the 212 deaths, 117 of them are COVID-19 related.
“This is an extremely serious issue and a direct threat to the safety of officers,” states Dr. David Black, CEO of Cordico. “Law enforcement personnel are at increased risk for exposure due to the nature of their work, which routinely places them in dangerous, high-risk situations.”
CDC Guidance for Law Enforcement
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The outbreak first started in China, but cases have been identified in a growing number of other areas, including the United States.
Patients with COVID-19 have had mild to severe respiratory illness.
- Data suggests that symptoms may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 days after exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19.
- Symptoms can include fever, cough, difficulty breathing, and shortness of breath.
- The virus causing COVID-19 is called SARS-CoV-2. It is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person via respiratory droplets among close contacts. Respiratory droplets are produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks and can land in the mouths or noses, or possibly be inhaled into the lungs, of people who are nearby. Close contact may include:
- Being within approximately 6 feet of an individual with COVID-19 for a prolonged period of time.
- Having direct contact with body fluids (such as blood, phlegm, and respiratory droplets) from an individual with COVID-19.
- Recent studies indicate that people who are infected but do not have symptoms likely also play a role in the spread of COVID-19.
To protect yourself from exposure
- If possible, maintain a distance of at least 6 feet.
- Practice proper hand hygiene. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available and illicit drugs are NOT suspected to be present, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Do not touch your face with unwashed hands.
- Have a trained Emergency Medical Service/ Emergency Medical Technician (EMS/EMT) assess and transport anyone you think might have COVID-19 to a healthcare facility.
- Ensure only trained personnel wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) have contact with individuals who have or may have COVID-19.
- Learn your employer’s plan for exposure control and participate in all-hands training on the use of PPE for respiratory protection, if available.
Recommended Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Law enforcement who must make contact with individuals confirmed or suspected to have COVID-19 should follow CDC’s Interim Guidance for EMS. Different styles of PPE may be necessary to perform operational duties. These alternative styles (i.e. coveralls) must provide protection that is at least as great as that provided by the minimum amount of PPE recommended.
The minimum PPE recommended is:
- A single pair of disposable examination gloves,
- Disposable isolation gown or single-use/disposable coveralls (If unable to wear a disposable gown or coveralls because it limits access to duty belt and gear, ensure duty belt and gear are disinfected after contact with individual.)
- Any NIOSH-approved particulate respirator (i.e., N-95 or higher-level respirator); Facemasks are an acceptable alternative until the supply chain is restored, and
- Eye protection (i.e., goggles or disposable face shield that fully covers the front and sides of the face)
If close contact occurred during apprehension
- Clean and disinfect duty belt and gear prior to reuse using a household cleaning spray or wipe, according to the product label.
- Follow standard operating procedures for the containment and disposal of used PPE.
- Follow standard operating procedures for containing and laundering clothes. Avoid shaking the clothes.
For law enforcement personnel performing daily routine activities, the immediate health risk is considered low. Law enforcement leadership and personnel should follow CDC’s Interim General Business Guidance.
- CDC What Law Enforcement Needs to Know About COVID-19
- Lexipol Free COVID-19 Policies, Courses, and Training Tools
- Lancet: Psychological Impact of Quarantine and How to Reduce It: Rapid Review of the Evidence
- First Responders, COVID-19 and Stress: Tips for Finding Peace
- Supporting Your First Responder Family’s Mental Wellness During the Coronavirus Pandemic