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50 Chicago Police Staffers Test Positive For Coronavirus As Hundreds More Call In Sick

Far more people than usual are out sick at the department lately, with about 6 percent — or more than 800 — of the department's staff gone Monday.

Police cleared crowds from the lakefront Wednesday evening.
Jason Baumann/Boxless Media
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CHICAGO — Fifty people in the Chicago Police Department have tested positive for coronavirus so far — and that number will likely get higher Tuesday, said a spokesman.

And far more people than usual are out sick at the department lately, with about 6 percent — or more than 800 — of the department’s staff gone Monday, as the Chicago Tribune first reported. Normally, 2.5-4 percent of the department calls in sick on a given day.

Even more people called in sick over the weekend, Anthony Guglielmi, a Chicago Police spokesman, told Block Club Chicago. Those having to call out included a mix of officers and civilians.

Staff members are calling in sick for a variety of factors, Guglielmi said: They are experiencing symptoms of coronavirus and have to self isolate, they might have issues besides COVID-19 and they might be caring for sick family members.

But the department has plans for the higher-than-average number of people who have had to stay at home.

“We have a layered Emergency Operations plan that centers around maintaining critical staffing levels,” Guglielmi said. “Even with the increase in sick leave, it is lower than what it was this weekend and we have not yet had to implement any significant changes to maintain neighborhood patrols. We do have plans for that should that day come.”

The department has also made some changes to promote social distancing and have fewer people in confined spaces, like moving cadets out of the Police Academy and into districts.

First responders are told to call out sick if they experience symptoms of coronavirus like fever, cough and difficulty breathing.

Officials set up a testing site in Dunning for first responders, but the lines for it have been long.


Coronavirus can be deadly, but the vast majority of cases have been mild. Those most at risk from the virus are people who are elderly or who have underlying health conditions.

Symptoms of coronavirus can appear two to 14 days after a person has been exposed to the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control. People with no symptoms may have the virus and spread it to others.

The virus spreads between people through coughing and sneezing, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The most common symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

People have also experienced body aches, nasal congestion, runny nose and sore throat, according to Harvard Medical School.

If you or someone else has difficulty breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, become confused, cannot be roused or develop a bluish face or lips, get immediate medical attention, according to the CDC.

How To Protect Yourself

The CDC only recommends those are already sick wear facemasks because they help you avoid spreading the virus.

Here’s what you can actually do to prevent getting ill:

  • The CDC and other officials have said people should wash their hands often, including before, during and after eating; after using the bathroom; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
    The CDC has a guide here for how to properly wash your hands. Remember: Wash with soap and water, scrubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  • If you can’t wash your hands with soap and water, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
  • Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose and mouth, with unwashed hands.
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces you touch frequently, like cellphones and light switches. Here are tips from the CDC.
  • Stay home when you’re sick and avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • If you have to sneeze or cough with a tissue, throw it out immediately after using it, according to the CDC.

What To Do If You Think You’re Sick

Even if you’re not showing symptoms, the Chicago Department of Public Health recommends people coming from high-risk countries (here’s a CDC list) self-quarantine for 14 days after returning home.

If you do have symptoms of coronavirus, contact your primary doctor or a health care facility before going in. Explain your symptoms and tell them if you’ve come into close contact with anyone with coronavirus or traveled to an area where COVID-19 is widespread (here’s a CDC list) within the last 14 days, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

From there, the experts will work with your local health department to determine what to do and if you need to be tested for coronavirus, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

And, of course, if you think you’re sick with coronavirus, don’t risk exposing other people to the virus. Anyone who feels unwell has been ordered to stay home or risk getting a $500 fine.

Those with questions and concerns about coronavirus can call the Illinois Department of Public Health at 800-889-3931.

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

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