PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Seven Providence Police officers who work on the same shift have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in recent days, Col. Hugh Clements confirmed Friday.
Clements said there had been a “flurry” of positive tests since Monday, with seven patrol officers on the night shift testing positive. He said the officers were not doing anything wrong in terms of COVID-19 protocols.
It was not immediately clear how many other officers came in contact with those who tested positive.
“We are following our internal guidelines of having those officers’ contact lists be immediately tested,” Clements said.
Officer Michael Imondi, the president of the police union, said most of those who tested positive were members of a field team has been handling protest control in Providence.
“They are always in close quarters to one another,” Imondi said, including being transported from one place to another in the same vehicle.
Imondi said those who test positive are required to fill out a list of their contacts, and any officers on the list go get a COVID-19 test. He said the officers who are contacts do not go into a 14-day quarantine if they test negative and have no symptoms, but they do monitor themselves for symptoms, take their temperatures and wear masks.
At the start of the pandemic the Police Department frequently erred on the side of caution, at one point sending ten officers into quarantine because a suspect they arrested had a family member who was getting tested for the virus.
But health guidelines since then have said only close contacts who have been within six feet of a positive case, with or without a mask, need to quarantine. And CDC guidance says critical workers such as police may continue to work following a potential exposure, as long as they have no symptoms and take precautions such as staying six feet away from others and wearing a mask.
Imondi acknowledged the tight level of precautions taken by police in terms of sanitizing and masks may have relaxed a bit since the height of Rhode Island’s pandemic, “but we’re putting it into high gear again,” he said.
“We’re pumping out more masks to everybody, the cars are being cleaned on a daily basis,” Imondi said. “We have a lot of public contact … it’s impossible to take away all risk.”