Thousands of New York City police officers have called in sick as hundreds on the force test positive for coronavirus in the city that has quickly become the main U.S. hotspot for the pandemic.
About 3,200 cops, 9 percent of the department, called out sick on Wednesday, three times as many as usual, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said. As of Tuesday evening, 177 uniformed officers and 34 civilian NYPD employees had tested positive for coronavirus, and those numbers are continuing to spike, Shea said, adding an exhortation to sick officers not to come in to work.
“Backup plans are already underway,” Shea said on MSNBC. “We are making adjustments. We are back filling patrols when we need to.”
“What we’re seeing internally as an agency on the frontline is that we are still on an upward climb,” the commissioner said.
So far, the weakened police presence has not caused an increase in criminal activity, with serious offenses down 17 percent so far this week compared to this time last year. Most businesses in New York City, including restaurants, bars, gyms, and other public gathering spaces, are shuttered temporarily at the order of Governor Andrew Cuomo as part of the state’s social distancing efforts.
“We’re doing thousands and thousands of inspections every day,” the commissioner assured regarding making sure businesses follow the order to close. “The majority of New Yorkers recognize that we’re in unprecedented times. They’re responding accordingly.”
The department is currently waiting to see whether the National Guard will be called in to assist the force, a possibility Cuomo has so far been coy about.
“Whatever needs he has, we’ll figure out how to address,” Cuomo said about the possibility of the National Guard helping the NYPD. “These are uncharted waters for all of us. But we’re resourceful, smart, quick on our feet, what’s the problem? We’ll figure out how to solve it.”