CHICAGO — A 50-year-old father of two and longtime Chicago Police officer has died from coronavirus.
Officer Marco Di Franco, a 21-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department, died Wednesday night, said Interim Police Supt. Charlie Beck.
Di Franco received more than 100 awards during his time with CPD and had most recently been working in the narcotics unit, Beck said. He was survived by his wife, two children and his brother, who also works as a narcotics officer.
“His sacrifice underscores the threats that are faced by public safety employees, who are not, by nature of their profession, allowed to shelter in place, shelter at home,” Beck said.
The officer contracted the virus last week and was hospitalized over the weekend, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said. He had two children, ages 7 and 10.
“Unfortunately, the severity of the virus became overwhelming, and he passed away with his family by his side,” she said. “It’s a “searing loss.”
Health care workers and first responders like Di Franco put their lives on the line to fight the virus, Lightfoot said.
“Tragically, this officer gave his life to that fight,” the mayor said. “Our hearts go out to the individual’s family, friends and fellow officers, whose lives have been forever changed by this terrible loss.”
Di Franco, as a narcotics officer who worked undercover, had “more minimal contact with the public” than patrol officers, Beck said. The department has sanitized his workplace and his family is quarantined.
Officials are not yet sure where Di Franco contracted the virus.
It’s also not clear yet if Di Franco’s death will be considered to have happened in the line of duty. Beck said it’s too early to determine that, though the department is discussing it with the local Fraternal Order of Police.
“We will look at all circumstances,” Beck said. “We will look and see if that is warranted.”
So far, more than 60 members of the department have tested positive for COVID-19.
Hundreds more members of the department than usual have called in sick recently. Those having to call out have been a mix of officers and civilian staff members, with some saying they have symptoms of the virus and have to isolate, while others are caring for sick family members or have health issues besides COVID-19.
Officers, like all people, are afraid of being exposed to the virus, Beck said, but they’re still working to protect Chicagoans.
“They show up for work. They work hard. They believe in their profession; they believe in this city. I have seen no unwillingness to push forward and keep this city safe during this crisis,” Beck said. “We obviously suffer through illness just like everybody else does, but these [people are part of a] incredibly motivated, strong work force that recognizes theirs is a higher calling and, without them, this city cannot succeed.”
First responders are being provided with personal protective equipment and must fill out reports if they think they have been exposed to coronavirus. They also have access to testing for COVID-19, though they’ve had long waits at a Dunning facility.
Lightfoot emphasized that, since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis in Chicago, first responders have been receiving “thousands” of pieces of protective equipment, as well as training to protect them.
The Chicago Police Department has received more than 100,000 masks, more than 100,000 gloves and more than 50,000 units of hand sanitizer, as well as gowns and other protective equipment as needed, said Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health.
“We are taking precautions whenever we respond to a call; and, yes, we are taking … into the back of our minds that every case could be a positive case, among other dangers we need to deal with,” said Kevin Graham, head of the local Fraternal Order of Police. “We are always keeping that in mind to make sure that our members are safe.”
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:
- 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.
Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.