COVID-19 may be shuttering businesses and closing public gathering spaces throughout the state and Douglas County, but as more and more people are asked to stay home, law enforcement must continue patrolling the streets.
As sheriff's deputies continue to provide services and maintain order throughout the county, they are also working to prevent themselves from contracting the virus and spreading it to their families or other residents.
As of March 24, at least 25 people were out sick from the Douglas County Sheriff's Office, Sheriff Tony Spurlock said. Two deputies and one civilian have tested positive for COVID-19. Some of the other deputies and employees out sick are also showing symptoms of the virus but haven't yet been tested, he said.
“It is something that we took very seriously,” Spurlock said. “We immediately took precautions to make sure people who were sick were separated from each other and cleaned their area.”
Two of the people who tested positive for the virus have recovered and are preparing to return to work, he said. An additional 30 sheriff's office employees are working from home, either because they are vulnerable to the virus or because their job can be done from home, he said.
“We had a couple days where we were concerned because we had a lot of people call in sick,” he said. “Our deputies put themselves in harm's way quite often and this just increases it.”
The risk for patrol deputies is particularly high because they travel throughout the community and interact with people, he said.
One way the sheriff's office is working to mitigate that risk is by screening calls that come through their dispatch center. If a deputy is going to need to enter a resident's home, they're asking occupants a variety of questions first. Is there someone in the house with a fever? Has anyone been sick in the last 72 hours?
They are also providing personal protective equipment, such as gloves and masks, for the deputies to wear at their own discretion. These supplies are limited, however.
“I can't tell you how long that's going to last,” Spurlock said.
Because these items aren't reusable, it is easy to run through them quickly. The office has applied to receive more equipment from the state and has even placed orders directly with manufacturers.
Deputies are also attempting to limit contact during traffic stops by taking a photo of the person's driver's license or insurance card instead of taking it from the person, Spurlock said.
Inside the offices in Castle Rock and Highlands Ranch, many meetings have been transitioned to video conferences to encourage social distancing. When a meeting is in person, only five people are in the room at a time, Spurlock said.
While there may be an increased risk of illness for his deputies, Spurlock emphasizes that his office is still “getting the work done.”
“You can still get a speeding ticket in Douglas County,” he said.
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