SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Before Thursday, Unified Police officers used three personal days until worker’s compensation took over to deal with COVID-19. Officers would get 66 percent of their pay underneath the benefits.
On Thursday, a unanimous vote by the board allows officers to take paid administrative leave until those benefits kick in. Plus the department will supplement the 33 percent difference using the paid administrative leave funds.
But during the board meeting, ABC4 News found out how officers are checked on when dealing with someone who may have COVID-19.
“Right now our stance is, if our officers come into contact with somebody who claims to have COVID-19, or has tested positive for COVID-19, we are asking them to continue to work, monitor their symptoms, and if they happen to have symptoms then we will go and get them tested,” said David Warnock with the Unified Police Department Human Resources.
The policy UPD was following goes against CDC and state recommendations.
“In general somebody who has had direct close contact with a confirmed COVID case, we do recommend quarantine for 14-days,” said the Utah Department of Health State Epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn.
Dr. Dunn says there is much more to learn about the time frame of when someone may be infectious.
“What we know about other coronaviruses is that people with the highest viral load, so most infectious at the beginning at the beginning of the disease when they are showing the most symptoms,” she said. “That’s when the viral load is at the highest and when people can transmit it very effectively.”
ABC4 News took the concerns over officer safety straight to Sheriff Rosie Rivera who says it was a protocol put into place at the beginning of the pandemic.
“UPD officers who have been dealing with the public in either making an arrest or responding on an incident where someone in that incident has used COVID-19 as a threat to law enforcement,” said the Sheriff. “You know every time we go to arrest someone they now say they have COVID-19. So it is a challenge of when and when you don’t go into quarantine because of one of those allegations.”
The sheriff says the officers make sure everyone in contact with the person making the claims knows what they said.
To eliminate any concern officers may be asymptomatic to COVID-19 and or infectious the Sheriff the tells ABC4 News, “So we will go back, take a look at the protocols that we have in place and make the appropriate changes absolutely.”
“I want our officers to know that we care about them, and we consider everything we do with them in our minds, as well as the public,” the Sheriff added.
At last check, no Unified Police Officers tested positive for COVID-19 and each one has the proper protective equipment.