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NYPD: COVID-19's wrath on cops appears to have passed

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said the department is

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said the department is looking to have officers get antibody tests.   Credit: Corey Sipkin

After a month with nearly 20% of NYPD officers out sick at one point, with thousands of cops ill from COVID-19, department officials believe they have beat back the pandemic's effect on the rank and file.

As of Thursday, just over 4% of uniformed officers called in sick, a sharp contrast to April 9 when 19.7%  of cops, or 7,155 officers, reported they were ill, said NYPD Chief Martin Morales, head of personnel for the department.

About two thirds of the officers out sick reported “flu-like” symptoms, Morales said.

“COVID hit us hard and the numbers were going up,” Morales said of April trends that saw steady increases in sick officers. Privately, some officials wondered if the loss of cops to illness might force the NYPD to go to 12-hour work tours, something that didn’t happen.

But in recent weeks, thanks to officers staying home and heeding federal guidelines about social distancing and using personal protective equipment, the number of sick cops has come down substantially, Morales said.

Of the 5,361 officers and civilian employee who tested positive for the virus, 4,856 have returned to work, Morales said, adding that 91% of infected cops have recovered.

Morales said 41 NYPD personnel — six cops, 29 civilians and six police auxiliaries members — have diedfrom COVID-19, a sobering reminder of the wrath the virus unleashed on the department.

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Even so, at the peak, cops seemed to fare better in fighting the coronavirus with only about 100 needing hospitalization and 10 still in such facilities, according to Morales.

The nature of police work amid the pandemic — cops having to enter homes of sick or dead people and enforcing social distance rules in parks as well as subways — made it inevitable that some would become ill, Morales said. But the selection process in hiring officers meant that many on the force are in good shape and likely better able to weather the virus, he said.

“To become a police officer you have to be in good shape,” Morales said. “We do hire pretty healthy individuals to become police officers; most maintain that good health in their careers.”

Also on Thursday, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea tweeted that the department was looking into referring officers for antibody tests. But Shea frankly noted that there isn’t any scientific certainty about what the tests mean, particularly about immunity.

Still, the department intends to ramp up such testing and will be posting information about where officers can go to get one. Morales said the information might be available Friday or Monday.

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