With two police officers hospitalized and “in serious condition” as they battle COVID-19, Jersey City officials gathered in front of the East District precinct this morning to discuss necessary changes being implemented to help keep first responders healthy.
“It is accurate that we have two officers at the medical center, both in serious condition, we have eight officers that are quarantined – medically advised – and we have eight additional ones that are quarantined because of working in close proximity to those officers: so a total of 16 officers that are on quarantine,” Mayor Steven Fulop said at the presser.
“We are currently at 42 that are out, due to symptoms, and we have 24 officers that have been out that have returned to service.”
Police Chief Michael Kelly noted after the news conference was over that 66 officers out of the approximately 970-member department have been on some form of quarantine since March 1st.
The event was called to raise awareness about protocol changes being made across the city after it was revealed that two officers, one from the East Precinct and one from the West Precinct, tested positive for the coronavirus.
The mayor indicated that in order to be mindful of social distancing, daily roll calls have been cancelled, while every precinct is being cleaned daily.
He also said that calls for service are down 25 percent since concerns over COVID-19 have come to a head.
Public Safety Director James Shea added that face-to-face officer reliefs are now being done over the phone, in conjunction with staggering the times when shifts start and end in order to limit contact between officers – as well as having two officers “convoying” in separate vehicles instead of traveling in one car.
Additionally, Kelly said that beginning tomorrow at 8 a.m., JCPD will have a new hotline set up for “minor incidents and minor crimes,” emphasizing that his officers will continue to work around the clock and respond to any and all calls for service.
“The most important thing to note about that is that the mayor was very, very concerned that when a citizen wants a police car – no matter what the incident – theyâ€™re gonna get a police car â€¦ If a citizen wants us, weâ€™ll be there, just like any other day.â€
Kelly also commended Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security Director W. Greg Kierce for having personal protective equipment kits (PPEs) ready for first responders long before there was a confirmed COVID-19 case in Jersey City.
Additionally, Fire Department Chief Steven McGill said that the fire department has been fortunate this far, with just two firefighters on self-quarantine due to possible coronavirus symptoms.
As a result of the pandemic, Fulop said the city is budgeting to spend $750,000 to $1 million a week as public safety remains a top priority, inevitably causing all city directors to amend their budgets in response to what will likely be “a long, drawn out process).
During the question and answer session with the media, HCV asked if officers should have any legitimate concerns about receiving hand sanitizer or face masks that are expired and/or damaged.
“I believe that’s a national issue: when this happened, no one worldwide was ready for a worldwide pandemic. We issued what we had immediately and we obtained them from places as fast as possible,” Shea responded.
“Important to note: expiration dates, like the masks, the expiration date is really for the rubber band holding the mask. We did our research, we made sure that everything that we gave out still had the same effectiveness it did when it was issued.”
Furthermore, Director of Health and Human Services Stacey Flanagan told us that Jersey City as a whole now has 53 positive cases of COVID-19, up three from yesterday, noting that contact tracing is being done regularly whenever it’s is deemed appropriate.
“The individuals that may work for the city, but do not live in the city, we are also contact tracing with them,” she said.
As of this afternoon, 101 coronavirus cases have been announced publicly in Hudson County: 53 in Jersey City, 19 in Hoboken, two in West New York, four in Kearny, one in Secaucus, two in Weehawken, 14 in North Bergen, and six in Bayonne.
The presser streamed live on our Facebook page and can be viewed below: