The office of the Chicago Police Department that oversees employees’ sick leave is now being staffed 24 hours a day in an effort to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on the city’s law enforcement efforts.
As of Friday afternoon, no employee of the nearly 14,000-person department has exhibited any symptoms of the coronavirus, said Anthony Guglielmi, the department’s chief spokesman.
The CPD’s medical section is normally staffed only during business hours, but the office will be monitoring employee wellness at all hours of the day and night so that departmental leadership will have access to information about ill employees at a moment’s notice.
“If somebody does exhibit symptoms, they’re going to be asked to stay home, and that will include police officers,” Guglielmi said. “We just went through that this morning, and there’s no uptick in people calling in sick.”
The CPD employs more than 400 civilians, and the department is “exploring” the idea of having them work from home, though, “there are certain civilian functions that are still essential to the daily operations,” Guglielmi said. Interim Supt. Charlie Beck has asked the department “to look at potential options.”
The department has also ordered additional hand sanitizer, medical masks and disinfectant wipes, which will be available for officers in the CPD’s 22 district stations across the city in the coming days, Guglielmi said.
The Chicago Fire Department, meanwhile, is providing firefighters and paramedics equipment that’s “specially designated for respiratory isolation.”
“All members are urged to follow CDC guidelines on suppressing the chance of infection and spread of COVID-19,” Larry Langford, a CFD spokesman, said in a statement. “This includes limited close contact and repeated hand-washing during the tour.”
On Thursday, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, which operates the sprawling jail on the Southwest Side that houses 6,000 inmates, said new intake procedures have been implemented “to ensure the health and safety of everyone who enters the facility.”
All non-staff members entering the jail — including visitors, vendors, volunteers, attorneys and contractors –—will be screened for symptoms, including having their temperatures checked, authorities said. Anyone showing symptoms “will be denied entry and encouraged to seek medical attention.”
The sheriff’s office has asked area law enforcement agencies to screen people they arrest for symptoms before transferring them to the jail. Jail officials said they have been screening arriving detainees for flu-like symptoms since Jan. 24.
Guglielmi said that if anyone arrested by a Chicago Police officer exhibits COVID-19 symptoms, the Chicago Fire Department will be immediately contacted.
Kevin Graham, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, the union representing more than 8,000 rank-and-file CPD officers, called on Beck to issue each officer their own kit of sanitation products. Graham also asked Beck to end officer roll calls and not require officers to swipe in and out at the start of their shifts as a way to minimize the spread of germs.
The Lightfoot administration responded to sanitation concerns raised by the FOP and other city employees by implementing a temporary change to its electronic time and attendance system.
Until the threat of the coronavirus subsides, employees will not be required to place their hands on palm readers for biometric authentication when they begin and end the work day. Instead, swiping their ID badges will suffice.
The mayor has also amended the city’s workforce policies to enable selected city employees to work from home for two weeks at a time so long as city services won’t be adversely impacted.
The new policies will also grant additional paid time off to city employees who have tested positive for the coronavirus or received a quarantine order because they’ve been exposed to someone who has received a positive diagnosis.
The additional time off will not extend to Chicago Police officers and firefighters, who already receive full pay and benefits for any illness for up to 12 months in any two-year period.
Contributing: Fran Spielman