COVID-19 has not spared the Denver Department of Public Safety, which includes the Denver Police Department, the Denver Sheriff Department and the Denver Fire Department.
At the start of the month, 21 public-safety employees had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. As of April 20, that number had more than tripled, to 77, according to Laura Dunwoody, a spokesperson for the Joint Information Center, which is handling communication chores related to Denver's COVID-19 response.
The Denver Police Department has been working hard to prevent and/or limit such infections. During a recent interview about how the virus has changed Mile High City crime, Police Chief Paul Pazen revealed that his officers are trying to limit face-to-face contact as much as possible, with an increased use of technology for remote interviewing among the tools at their disposal.
In addition, Denver patrol officers typically have access to two types of personal-protective equipment, shorthanded as PPEs — what Pazen referred to as "a low-profile kit" and a "higher-profile kit." The former consists of an N95 mask, designed to protect the wearer from inhaling the virus, plus gloves and safety glasses "that can be put on in a matter of seconds." The latter "essentially covers officers from head to toe," he said.
"When we have discretionary time and are able to think through a response, instead of reacting immediately, it may make sense to wear the high-level kit," he explained. "It all goes back to exercising good judgment."
But even these efforts can't keep everyone safe. In order to protect patient privacy, the city isn't offering specifics about gender or medical condition for the 77 positive cases among Public Safety employees. Dunwoody notes that "we are also not releasing return-to-work status."
She does, however, offer one piece of positive information: "Thirty-six have already recovered," she says.