CDC Protocols for First Responders During Chinese Coronavirus (COVID-19)—And a Comment About Reactions

By Steve Pomper 

Before I begin with the CDC’s recommendations for the nation’s cops, a personal note. I’m not sure all these precedents we’re setting around the country are warranted or an overreaction (so far, the evidence seems to indicate the latter). There’s now even a mayor potentially banning selling guns and alcohol in—of all cities—Champagne, Illinois. And now in my state of Washington, the governor has closed all bars and restaurants (the entire state, which is mostly rural!). Wait… what? Bars closed on St. Patrick’s Day???

Anyway, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has put out information helpful to first responders, and some of it is targeted specifically for law enforcement. First, the stuff you probably already know. This coronavirus is a contagious respiratory illness. The outbreak began last year in Wuhan, China and is now impacting the world, including other parts of Asia, Europe, and North America, including the United States.

The state where I live, Washington, has been hit hardest in the U.S., but it’s been almost exclusively limited to older folks with underlying serious medical conditions. Which is not good for any of those folks or their families, and I offer my sincere condolences.

The CDC reports the coronavirus is airborne and is transmitted from person to person through respiratory droplets: coughing, sneezing. The incubation period can be from two to 14 days after “close-contact” exposure to the disease. People may have a “fever, cough, difficulty breathing, and shortness of breath.

Close contact means being within about six feet of an infected person “for a prolonged period of time.” Also, and this is important for cops, avoid direct contact with blood, phlegm, and respiratory droplets from an infected person.

The CDC recommends cops take these precautions:

  • Keep six feet away from possibly infected folks. For cops, yeah, right? Do your best.
  • Wash hands for 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use a 60% alcohol hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching face with unclean hands.
  • Have EMTs or medics assess and transport to a healthcare facility suspected Chinese coronavirus cases.
  • Only personnel with training and personal protective equipment (PPE) should deal with people suspected of being infected. Unless someone tells you, how would you know?
  • Take part in your agency’s coronavirus training if it is available. If not, use the CDC’s online resources like the link provided above.

Regarding PPE for law enforcement, the CDC first advises cops who must contact a person who has or may have coronavirus should review their Interim Guidance for EMS. The CDS’s minimum PPE recommendations are:

  • Latex gloves.
  • Disposable coveralls or disinfect duty belt and equipment after exposure.
  • NIOSH-approved particulate respirator or a facemask.
  • Safety glasses.

If you have contact with an infected or suspected person, for example, during an arrest, the CDC recommends:

  • Disinfect duty belt and gear with a cleaning solution or disinfectant wipe.
  • Dispose of PPE’s per department procedures.
  • Carefully remove uniform (clothing) and launder.

Finally, the CDC provides this comforting note for cops: “For law enforcement personnel performing daily routine activities, the immediate health risk is considered low.”

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