Health and Science

More than 1,000 New York City police officers have the coronavirus as 911 calls hit records

Key Points
  • More than 1,400 NYPD employees have COVID-19 as officers patrol the locked-down streets.
  • Of the department's more than 36,000 employees, over 1,400 uniformed officers and civilian employees have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Wednesday, Police Chief Terence Monahan said.
  • The department said 6,100 uniformed officers, or about 17% of the force, called out sick Wednesday.
A view of a group of NYPD policemen at Elmhurst Hospital Center in the Queens borough of New York City on March 27, 2020.
John Nacion | NurPhoto | Getty Images

More than 1,400 NYPD employees, including more than 1,000 officers, have contracted COVID-19 as emergency calls in the city hit record highs, the police chief said Wednesday.

Some 6,100 uniformed officers, or about 17% of the 36,000-strong workforce, called out sick Wednesday, Police Chief Terence Monahan said.

A day earlier, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he was "worried" about "essential workers getting scared and not wanting to show up. "You know the number of police officers who are getting sick is going up," Cuomo said Tuesday.

New York Fire Department officials told NBC News on Tuesday that 282 members, including firefighters, EMTs and civilians, have tested positive for COVID-19. At the same time, 911 call volume is hitting record daily highs, the department said.

On Monday, 6,527 medical calls were placed to 911, and over the past few days, the FDNY has had to "hold" hundreds of calls, according to NBC News. This means that lower-priority sick calls have to wait for ambulances.

On Wednesday, Cuomo called for the NYPD to more aggressively enforce the city's social distancing policies. 

"The NYPD has to get more aggressive. Period. Period," he said at his daily news briefing. "We're going to need law enforcement to get more aggressive."

COVID-19 has infected 43,119 people in New York City and killed at least 1,096 people, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. 

Last month, the New York City Police Benevolent Association filed a complaint with the State Public Employee Safety and Health Bureau demanding that the NYPD provide adequate protective equipment, including masks and gloves, to all officers.

"No matter how this pandemic progresses, New York City police officers will remain on the front lines and will continue to carry out our duties protecting New Yorkers," PBA President Patrick Lynch said in a statement. "The NYPD has not done enough to ensure that all of our members have protective equipment such as masks and gloves, nor does it have adequate supplies of that equipment to weather a prolonged outbreak."

The city is trying to boost its capacity to test more police officers and first responders for the coronavirus, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said Tuesday.

"I can tell you on the side we're also working with the unions and the medical division and some outside people to try to boost up the testing available for our police officers. We do have a site right now open," Shea said. "But we're trying to boost up that capacity, so that we can get the answers for people that are concerned, so your families can get the answers."

Cuomo said Tuesday he would send New York state police to back up sick NYPD officers if need be. Mayor Bill de Blasio said some infected officers have begun to recover and until they are back to work, healthy officers will pick up some overtime.

"We'll keep bringing in reserves. We'll go to longer shifts if we have to. We'll do more overtime, whatever it takes," he said Monday on MSNBC. "We have 36,000 officers, the finest police force in the country. We are going to keep the city safe. We'll make it work."

Beyond New York, the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, first responders in other cities are starting to get hit by the virus as well. In Detroit, 76 police officers have tested positive and 522 are in quarantine, Mayor Mike Duggan said Tuesday. He added that 17 members of the Detroit Fire Department have tested positive and 133 are in quarantine.

COVID-19 has infected 2,086 people in Detroit, according to the city, and killed at least 73 people. 

Duggan announced last week that Detroit Police Chief James Craig tested positive for the virus. 

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