The POA is actively monitoring developments relating to the spread of Coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19). Our primary responsibility is to protect you and ensure that you have the best and safest working conditions – especially when a pandemic is spreading. As we were reminded of in the last few days when 25 firefighters in Washington State were quarantined after being exposed to individuals with the virus at a nursing home (sadly, multiple inhabitants subsequently died), public safety employees face greater likelihood of exposure to infected persons. Northern California has become an epicenter of the virus’s spread due to the area’s economic importance and its status as a popular tourist destination. The POA does not want to overreact to this issue, nor does it want to under-react. Ten cases have already been detected in Santa Clara County, up from three earlier in the week. The City and County of San Francisco have declared a State of Emergency. Further spread of the virus in Northern California and Nationally is inevitable.
Below is a short summary of how it is spread, the symptoms, best practices, and the City’s reaction.
How it is Spread
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the current understanding of this new disease is that it spreads mainly from person-to-person through respiratory droplets, which are produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. The droplets also land on surfaces or objects, which may spread the disease on contact.
· Fever, cough, and shortness of breath
· Carry and use a N-95 face mask when appropriate.
· Frequently wash your hands with soap and hot water.
· Avoid customary handshaking.
· If you feel sick, stay home!
· If you have flu-like symptoms, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone. Immediately contact your healthcare provider if your condition and symptoms get worse.
· Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
· Use disinfectant wipes on your equipment at the end of your shift.
· If prescribed antiviral medication, complete the entire treatment regimen .
· Use personal protective equipment whenever there is an expectation of possible exposure. This includes wearing a mask or respirator, eye protection and/or a face shield, gloves, a gown and/or a protective outer garment.
· Properly handle, clean, and disinfect individual care equipment, instruments, and devices. Any items that are not disposable and come into contact with an individual who potentially may be infected must be cleaned and disinfected. This includes, but is not limited to: handcuffs, pens, clipboards, etc. Items that are disposable must be disposed of properly.
· Handle textiles, uniforms, and laundry carefully. Bag or otherwise contain contaminated textiles for proper care and cleaning. Be sure to follow fabric-care instructions and special laundering requirements of all textiles or clothing according to agency policy. Package, transport, and store clean textiles or uniforms so they are protected during transport and unloading so they’re clean for future usage.
· Stay up-to-date on information about the COVID-19 outbreak, which can be obtained from the CDC’s website by clicking here. Local and state public health departments are also excellent sources of information concerning this epidemic.
The City has actively responded to this issue and has been coordinating closely with the County’s Health Department, which is responsible for monitoring, responding and reporting public health conditions. The City began revising it’s 2009 Pandemic Response plan in late January. As of 4:00 PM on Friday, February 27th the City raised its response level to Level 3 (“medium risk”) on its 5 level response matrix due to the third confirmed case in Santa Clara County. This was before the number of positive tests within the County jumped from three to ten.
The City will be providing the following resources to employees:
· Additional hand sanitizers and surface wipes
· Increasing wipe down of counters and surfaces
· Posting more literature on health precautions
· Increasing alternatives to in-person meetings
· Communicating to employees
The San Jose Police Department has stockpiles of N95 masks. We encourage you to take advantage of them.
The POA believes that parts of Section 5199 of Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations, entitled “Aerosol Transmissible Diseases,” may apply to protect law enforcement officers. To summarize, Section 5199 mandates the following:
· Written Procedures and Safeguards: Your employer shall establish written infection procedures to control the risk of transmission of Covid-19, which incorporate the State of California guidelines, including the screening and referral of cases and/or suspected cases of Covid-19 and an exposure control plan.
· Protective Equipment: The employer shall provide all safeguards required by Section 5199, including provision of personal protective equipment, respirators, training, and medical services, at no cost to you or other employees, at a reasonable time and place for you and other employees, and during working hours.
· Where respirator use is required: your employer shall provide, at no cost to you, a respirator that is at least as effective as an N95 filtering face-piece respirator, unless the employer’s evaluation of respiratory hazards determines that a more protective respirator is necessary. Your employer shall also provide medical evaluations of employees required to use respirators; fit testing procedures for tight-fitting respirators; procedures for proper use of respirators in routine and reasonably foreseeable emergency situations; procedures for cleaning, storing, inspecting, repairing, and discarding respirators.
· Keep in mind that the CDC has not indicated (as of March 1, 2020) that police officers should wear protective masks during the course of their regular duties (i.e., duties which are not particularly at risk of coming into contact with people who have COVID-19).
· Where respirator use is not required: your employer may provide respirators at your request or permit you to use your own respirator, if the employer determines that such respirator use will not in itself create a hazard. Your employer must establish and implement procedures to ensure that any employee using a respirator voluntarily is medically able to use that respirator, and that the respirator is cleaned, stored, and maintained so that its use does not present a health hazard to the user.
· Medical services: Your employer shall provide to any employee with occupational exposure the necessary medical services for COVID-19, in accordance with applicable public health guidelines.
· Training: Your employer shall ensure that all employees with occupational exposure participate in a training program. Where respirator-use is required, your employer shall train employees in the respiratory hazards to which they are potentially exposed during routine and emergency situations.
· Police contact with COVID-19 Individuals: In cases involving individuals who are identified as having COVID-19, these individuals shall be provided with disposable tissues and hand hygiene materials and masked or placed in such a manner that contact with employees who are not wearing respiratory protection is eliminated or minimized until transfer can be accomplished. Your employer shall ensure that this placement or transfer is effected in a timely manner.
· Record-keeping: Your employer shall establish and maintain an accurate medical record for each employee with occupational exposure. The employer shall ensure that all employee medical records required by this section are kept confidential.
We will be discussing these issues with the City and SJPD.
The spread of Covid-2019 is a serious issue. If you have any concerns, please address the Department. If your concerns are not addressed, please contact a POA Board Member.