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983 Chicago Police Staffers Call In Sick Day After Officer Dies

Officer Marco Di Franco's death occurred in the line of duty, interim Supt. Charlie Beck said.

Kelly Bauer
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CHICAGO — More than 7 percent of the Chicago Police Department’s staff was out sick Friday, the day after an officer died from coronavirus.

In all, 983 members of the department were out sick Friday, though that’s a slight decrease from the number of people who called in sick the day before, said interim Supt. Charlie Beck.

More than 70 members of the department have had confirmed cases of coronavirus, though a department spokesman said previously others are calling in sick because they have symptoms and are being cautious, have other health issues or have to care for a family member.

The city and department has taken steps to protect officers, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Beck said at a Friday morning press conference. That includes distributing protective equipment, like gloves and masks, and implementing social distancing where possible among officers.

But first responders are still putting their lives on the line every day as they go out to battle coronavirus, the mayor and top cop said.

“These are tough times and things that are unimaginable in our past are going to happen,” Beck said. “I will do everything in my power, and I have done everything in my power, to keep [officers] as safe as I can, recognizing that is an impossibility. … We all recognize our folks are at risk and we need to protect them.”

Lightfoot and Beck also paid tribute to Chicago officer Marco Di Franco, the first police officer to die of the virus in Illinois.

Di Franco’s death Thursday has been determined to have occurred in the line of duty, Beck said.

That means Di Franco’s family — his wife and two sons, 10 and 7 — will be eligible for financial support through the city and for support from the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation. It also means immediate family members of Di Franco can receive preference for a position in the Chicago Police or Fire departments.

Lightfoot said she’s sure Di Franco’s death has caused members of the department to reflect on their lives, just as it has caused her to think of her own.

“Whenever there’s a death, and a death of someone that you know, it creates a moment of reflection. It certainly has for me,” Lightfoot said. “When I woke up yesterday morning and heard this tragic news, you think about your own mortality. You think about what that means for the people that you love. And I’m sure that officers all over this department, first responders all over this city and others are thinking about what this means for them.

“But we have to wake up again the next day … and continue the work. We are making some progress, but we have a long way to go on this journey. And, really, no one knows when we’re gonna hit that end point.”

Symptoms

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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