Three Vancouver Police Department officers have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past two weeks, marking the first cases of the virus within the agency since it started taking precautions against the pandemic in March.
According to Clark County Public Health, there were initially two confirmed cases at the police department’s east precinct. The positive lab results for the cases were received Oct. 17 and 18.
Police department spokeswoman Kim Kapp said as of Wednesday, there was a third positive case. She did not specify where that officer worked.
Public Health has worked closely with the police department to identify and notify all close contacts of the cases and instruct them on quarantine, spokeswoman Marissa Armstrong said.
The staff who tested positive includes a sergeant and two police officers, all of whom work patrol, Kapp said. They are quarantining, she said.
Several other police department personnel have taken leave for suspected COVID-related reasons, or because they were experiencing COVID-like symptoms, according to the department. These staff have quarantined and/or been tested for the virus based on possible close contact exposure. To date, however, there have only been the three confirmed cases.
As of Thursday, on-the-job coronavirus infections were responsible for at least 132 officer deaths nationwide, more than gun violence, car crashes and all other causes combined, according to the Officer Down group.
That group and the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, another nonprofit, only count COVID-19 deaths “if it is determined that the officer died as a result of exposure to the virus while performing official duties,” according to the memorial fund. “Substantive evidence will be required to show the death was more than likely due to the direct and proximate result of a duty-related incident.”
Law enforcement agencies nationwide have increased safety precautions and established practices to help avoid staff shortages since the beginning of the pandemic. Some of the precautions include suspending training, limiting public access to facilities and curtailing in-person responses, according to the Police Executive Research Forum, a nonprofit, national law enforcement membership organization.
Kapp said that the police department developed contingency staffing plans in March, in case patrol staffing was significantly reduced due to COVID-19. The staffing plans address various levels of vacancies so that patrol staffing and response to emergency calls are maintained at necessary levels, she said.
Detectives and other sworn staff, who based on their current assignments don’t currently respond to 911 calls, have been provided patrol refresher training as needed, and their equipment needs have been assessed as a precaution, should they be needed for patrols.
Many of the nonpatrol staff have also been teleworking to further reduce exposure, Kapp said. Currently, there has not been a need to implement any of the contingency staffing plans, she said.
COVID-19-related procedures have been updated over the past several months based on the most current information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state Department of Health, Kapp said.
Following the CDC’s guidelines means the officers who tested positive will isolate for at least 10 days and 24 hours have passed without a fever and symptoms have improved.
Public Health did not immediately have information on how many close contacts to the positive cases may have occurred. The potential exposures at the Vancouver Police Department have been required to quarantine at home for two weeks.
The police department is not the only county law enforcement agency to confirm cases of COVID-19. Breanne Nelson, Human Resources manager for the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, said in an email that out of its staff of more than 400 personnel, there have been five positive cases since March. The sheriff’s office did not specify when those positive cases were discovered.