The Minneapolis Police Department, already faced with staffing shortages from a wave of departures since the George Floyd protests, has seen a rise in the number of employees testing positive for COVID-19, including three deputy chiefs and a senior civilian staff member who were all infected around the same time.
An MPD spokesman confirmed that the department has had 24 coronavirus cases as of Wednesday and that a “vast majority” have since recovered and returned to work.
“Our sworn personnel in the chief’s office are all operational and working,” said spokesman John Elder, who declined to give their ranks, citing medical privacy laws.
But four sources with knowledge of department operations say that three of the department’s four deputy chiefs tested positive, prompting the rest of the command staff, including Chief Medaria Arradondo, to self-isolate at home as a precaution. Another positive case was a senior civilian official who had to be hospitalized, the sources say.
The revelations come amid the continued spread of the deadly virus; state health officials on Thursday announced 745 new cases as the state passed more than 1 million diagnostic tests conducted.
The department has taken certain precautions, such as requiring officers to wear masks on all calls and screening visitors to its police stations and other department buildings. Officers are also being encouraged to take their temperatures at home and not report for work if they have a fever.
For months, the department has been largely spared the type of major outbreak that has hit other departments such as Detroit, New York City and Los Angeles, which last week had its first officer death from the virus.
In Minneapolis, officers had previously been assigned protective equipment such as masks, gloves and hand sanitizer, but until recently hadn’t been required to use the gear on all calls.
At the same time, department officials have been scrambling to fill staffing gaps amid rising crime, with dozens of officers leaving the force or taking temporary medical furloughs in the wake of Floyd’s killing on May 25 while in police custody. Some units have been disbanded due to budget cuts related to the pandemic, officials say.