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Nearly a dozen Chicago first responders infected with coronavirus, but all recovering and ‘in great spirits’

Six of the cases are in the Chicago Police Department, and five in the Chicago Fire Department, leaders of the two departments said. Two of the Chicago Police employees are recovering from the coronavirus in hospitals.

A Chicago Police car is parked in front of a Target store in downtown Chicago on Sunday.
A Chicago Police car is parked in front of a Target store in downtown Chicago on Sunday.
Nam Y. Huh/AP

The total number of Chicago first responders who have tested positive for COVID-19 rose to 11 on Tuesday, as a mix of Chicago Police detectives, patrol officers, firefighters and paramedics became sickened by the coronavirus.

Six of the cases are in the Chicago Police Department, and five in the Chicago Fire Department, leaders of the two departments said.

Two of the Chicago Police employees are recovering from the coronavirus in hospitals, Interim Police Supt. Charlie Beck said. In addition to detectives and patrol officers, the department’s cases include a community relations employee.

“I talked to every one of them personally, and they’re all in great spirits,” Beck said. “They’re tremendous, brave people who want to get through this and get back to work.”

Interim Police Supt. Charlie Beck details the measures first responders are taking to protect themselves and the public from COVID-19 during a Tuesday press conference.
Interim Police Supt. Charlie Beck details the measures first responders are taking to protect themselves and the public from COVID-19 during a Tuesday press conference.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

All five Chicago Fire Department employees are recovering from the virus at home, Fire Commissioner Richard Ford II said.

They include firefighters, a paramedic and an assistant paramedic chief, a department spokesman said.

“I’m happy to say they’re doing well and recovering,” Ford said. “But I can’t stress how important it is that our members heed the call to use precautions whenever necessary.”

Beck said all Chicago Police facilities will go through an extensive cleaning, with districts involving employees who tested positive for the virus cleaned more thoroughly.

More than 12,000 kits of personnel protective equipment such as respiratory masks have been distributed throughout the police department, Beck said.

Examples of some of the personal protective equipment provided to first responders in Chicago.
Examples of some of the personal protective equipment provided to first responders in Chicago.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Officers will continue working while practicing physical distancing guidelines that could reduce chances of spreading the coronavirus, Beck said. They’ve also been instructed to only focus on crimes that are a direct threat to public safety to limit officers’ exposure.

Already, the police department has seen a reduction in vehicle and pedestrian stops by officers, Beck said.

The department has also seen a 30% drop in 911 calls, which Beck attributed to more people staying indoors to mitigate spread of the coronavirus.

“People are doing what we ask: staying home,” Beck said. “That will have a direct impact on public health and safety.”

The fire department is taking similar measures, including dedicating some ambulances to possible COVID-19 cases, Ford said.

Ford and Beck detailed the precautions their departments are taking just an hour after state officials announced the state’s total COVID-19 tally has reached 1,535 cases, including 16 deaths.

While first responders are “essential employees” who will continue working through the state’s precautionary stay-at-home order, Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, urged them to still stay at home if experiencing any symptoms.

“Our first responders can’t stay home, so it’s important that we’re prioritizing their safety and giving them enough personal protective equipment,” Arwady said. “But even essential workers must stay home if they’re sick.”