As the threat of the coronavirus extends into April and the entire nation continues to enforce closures and social distancing, America’s public servants stand on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.
The people responsible for law, order, and healthcare during this crisis are the most vulnerable to the virus, leaving police officers, transportation operators, and doctors at serious risk.
Police Seek to Maintain Patrols as More Officers Contract Coronavirus
Many of us can work from home until the coronavirus pandemic ends, but not the police officers who dedicate their lives to keep us safe. The core of their job requires interaction with strangers all day long; they can’t choose who to avoid or take measures to stand six feet away at all times, leaving them highly vulnerable to the virus.
As of March 25, 177 uniformed officers of the NYPD and 34 civilian NYPD employees had tested positive for the coronavirus. More than 3,200 police officers were out sick in a single day, more than triple the normal rate. New York City isn’t alone; other major cities are experiencing similar patterns as enforced shutdowns demand a higher police presence on a shorter supply of healthy cops.
In Detroit, more than a fifth of the police force was in quarantine at the end of March, and 39 officers had tested positive, including the chief of police himself. As a result, healthy officers are working double shifts, swapping units to fill patrols, and running themselves ragged to keep their city safe.
Sgt. Manny Ramirez, president of Fort Worth Police Officers Association summed it up simply: “I don’t think it’s too far to say that officers are scared out there.”
Public Transportation Operators Exposed While Transporting Essential Workers
Public transportation operators are often taken for granted, but in the age of the coronavirus, they’re on the front lines as well. Essential workers in cities across the country are relying on transportation workers to get to work, leaving bus drivers, train operators, and other employees in direct contact with thousands of strangers.
Oliver Cyrus, a bus operator in New York, and train conductor Peter Petrassi were both killed by the coronavirus on March 26.
Health Care Workers Treating the Sick Put Themselves in Path of Virus
Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, hospitals and nursing homes struggled with staff shortages, overworked employees, and vulnerable patients. Now the spread of coronavirus has exacerbated those three challenges into the perfect storm.
Nursing homes in the hardest-hit states like New Jersey, Washington, and New York are coping with dozens of staffers out sick, leaving a limited number of staff to handle a larger-than-life problem. St. Joseph’s Senior Home in Woodbridge Township, New Jersey, for example, was forced to call for state help. State troopers ultimately escorted a bus with 78 residents to a different facility more than 30 miles away.
As Jen Kates, head of the global health program at the Kaiser Family Foundation, explains, “With always lower staffing ratios plus the very real risk of losing more [health care workers] due to illness, this could spiral and get much worse.”
If the numbers from Wuhan, China, are any indication, doctors and nurses are putting themselves in a vulnerable position as they care for our nation’s patients. The data from Wuhan indicates that 15% of the 1,700 COVID-19 cases for medical personnel were critical or severe.
These struggles shed light on the incredible importance of social distancing, clinical trial research for new COVID-19 treatments, and future vaccines to prevent this outbreak from occurring in the future.