'Stop testing NBA players and start testing our first responders': Police chief pleads with Trump officials
He also said he had to rely on 'backchannels' at a local hospital to procure tests for officers who had possibly been exposed to COVID-19
As the coronavirus pandemic worsens in the US, a police chief from California pleaded with the Trump administration to stop testing NBA players for COVID-19, and instead, focus their efforts on first responders who are much likelier to be infected.
The appeal is said to have come during a call this past Friday, March 20, organized by the International Association of Chiefs of Police to provide police departments around the country with information to "get through this crisis OK," according to ABC News.
Chief John Carli of Vacaville, California, told Trump officials on the call that, the way the crisis was being handled currently, they were going to start losing first responders to the crisis.
"If we’re quarantining [our] people for 14 days … we’re going to lose our first responders," he said. "And we have to, at a national level, get the support down to the local level. Stop testing NBA players, and start testing our first responders."
Carli's complaint was in response to reports that 13 professional basketball players had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, and that, in some of those cases, it was state officials and not federal ones who had okayed the procedures.
Police departments and law enforcement agencies have already lost a significant number of workers to quarantine, self-isolation, and sometimes, confirmed sickness — more than 35,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19.
A Department of Homeland Security Official revealed on the call that, in their organization alone, "several thousand" employees had been sidelined because of the virus in recent weeks.
Carli also said he had to rely on "backchannels" at a local hospital to procure tests for officers who had possibly been exposed to COVID-19.
A New Jersey State Police official expressed similar concerns and said federal privacy laws were masking the exact locations of coronavirus patients and endangering the lives of officers and citizens.
He brought up HIPAA — the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which limits the sharing of personal health information — in particular and said it was preventing police from taking appropriate precautions.
"We’ve already had a case where a positive test was out breaking the quarantine, driving around with just a mask on, in their car," he shared.
The call provided insight into how police departments around the US were struggling amidst the crisis and how much policing has changed in the country in the short few weeks the virus has taken to spiral out of control.
"Our mission has completely changed from what we were doing three weeks ago," said Bill Brooks, police chief in Norwood, Massachusetts. "Our core mission at this point is not only public service but sustainability. I need the police department to be operational and healthy 60 days from now."
More often than not, patrol officers are being tasked to watching grocery stores, where panic-buying and hoarding are becoming commonplace. They have also reportedly been directed to avoid arresting people "if at all possible."
"Somebody needs to make a decision at the very high level so that we’re not having to have these decisions made [this way]," Carli said.