Coronavirus taking heavy toll on California first responders

Police Lt. Jay Hom helps assemble kits at Piper Technical Center in Los Angeles on March 11 consisting of an N95 mask, work gloves and nitrile gloves as he and other LAPD personnel assemble personal safety kits for field officers to protect them from the coronavirus.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

The coronavirus is taking a growing toll on police officers, firefighters and other first responders in California, with at least three dying and dozens infected.

The number of Los Angeles Police Department officers and civilian employees testing positive for the coronavirus increased to 45 with at least one employee hospitalized.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Fire Department has a total of 13 firefighters who have tested positive for the virus with one hospitalized, Some of the first infected are beginning to recover. One police officer and two firefighters have been cleared to return to duty. Four members of the command staff of the LAPD tested positive for the virus and all are said to be in the recovering stage.


Fire departments in San Jose and Long Beach have been hit by outbreaks.

Across Southern California, two law enforcement officers have died of COVID-19 related medical issues. Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputies David Werksman and Terrell Young died last week. In Riverside County, at least 26 Sheriff’s Department employees and 13 inmates have tested positive. Young worked in the jails where 22 deputies who tested positive worked.

The numbers pale in comparison to the New York Police Department where 11 employees have died, 1,169 officers have tested positive and about a fifth of the force is off sick.

The LAPD continues to test more of its 13,000 employees. So far more than 360 employees have been tested. The department is now taking the temperatures of officers as they arrive for their shifts. Department roll calls are now conducted with officers spaced to ensure social distancing. Those with even slight signs of illness have been ordered to stay home.

Workspaces are frequently sanitized, and officers are equipped with N95 masks, gloves and goggles if needed.

Police Chief Michel Moore last week directed officers to wear protective masks or other face coverings as an added safety measure amid the coronavirus outbreak.


“Effective today, you may see your local LAPD officers wearing either surgical masks or nonmedical face coverings while in public. This is for our safety, and for your safety. Coupled with safe social distancing, we will continue to protect and serve through this crisis,” Moore said.

A Santa Rosa police detective died last week.

Since the outbreak began, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has sent more than 209 employees home to quarantine because of exposure to the virus.