Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan said 42 officers at the Tampa Police Department are being quarantined after potential exposure to the new coronavirus.
Dugan said 15 of the exposures occurred while officers were on the job. Three of the officers may have been exposed while performing CPR on a person who later died of unknown causes.
The police chief said exposure is an unavoidable risk for police.
“This is a public health issue that has bled over into law enforcement,” he said in a video posted on the Tampa Police Department Facebook page. “There’s no way cops can do their jobs without potentially being exposed to this virus. We can’t walk around with face masks. We can’t walk around with various personal protection equipment.”
Dugan added that he was concerned that “people are taking this lightly … people need to take this seriously.”
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, a former Tampa Police Chief herself, brought the infections up during a Hillsborough County Emergency Policy Group meeting Wednesday in which she used the situation to underscore the need for immediate action on some sort of stay-at-home order. Castor had been planning to move forward with citywide restrictions, but that order will likely not happen now after the policy group voted to move forward with a countywide order.
The order, if approved Wednesday, would go into effect Friday at 10 p.m. and would restrict any businesses from opening that could not abide by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on social distancing, among other provisions.
Such orders as seen as a key way to help communities “flatten the curve” and are essential tools in mitigating risks for essential workers, like first responders, to minimize their unavoidable risks.
The announcement came a couple hours after the Florida Department of Health announced that there were now 1,682 cases of coronavirus in the state — more than twice the total of 830 reported Sunday morning and the biggest rise in reported cases between twice-daily reports.
At least 22 Floridians have now died from the novel coronavirus.