WARREN, Mich. – As Michigan experiences its second wave of coronavirus spread, frontline institutions are growing concerned -- including local police departments.
Specifically in Warren, numerous police officers are off the job after contracting COVID-19.
Warren Police Commissioner Bill Dwyer says 13 officers and one dispatcher are not currently working after testing positive for the virus. A total of 25 officers are either positive for COVID or are in quarantine.
On Thursday, yet another Warren officer -- a lieutenant in his 40s -- tested positive for COVID and has been hospitalized. Dwyer says he is concerned about the rise in cases among the department and losing more on-duty officers.
Officials say police work is still getting done with the reduced staff size, but the Warren department has had to adjust its operations to prevent further spread of coronavirus.
The police headquarters is reportedly closed and sanitized twice a day. Warren police officers are also riding alone in squad cars and taking minor police reports over the phone instead of in person.
Still, it is difficult to prevent close contact between officers under some circumstances. Officials say the Warren police officers who tested positive for the virus are from every part of the department -- but most of them come together on the SWAT team.
Two recent barricaded gunmen cases had those officers in close contact with one another. Dwyer says in those “special response” instances, there’s no way to avoid the lack of distancing while riding in the vehicle together.
The special investigations unit was also hit by the virus, the same detectives who solved two big cases recently: hate crimes against a Warren family, and a double homicide in which a child was killed.
Dwyer says the department is “taking every step possible” to prevent the spread of the virus, but there is “no common denominator when it comes to COVID-19.”
Nearby, the Warren City Hall has temporarily closed its doors on Sunday after numerous city employees tested positive for COVID-19. Warren Mayor Jim Fouts is urging residents to wear face masks, keep distance from others and only go out if absolutely necessary.
The entire state of Michigan is currently experiencing a rise in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. On Thursday, the state reported 6,940 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and 45 new deaths since Wednesday. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Michigan has risen to 236,225 in total, including 7,811 total deaths, as of Thursday.