What Law Enforcement Can Do to Protect Themselves Against Coronavirus
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is sweeping communities across the nation and has caused a global crisis by overwhelming medical facilities. As the number of cases continues to climb in the U.S., it’s important to know how you can best protect fellow officers, yourself, your family, and your community from potential infection.
The virus is highly contagious — it is able to linger in the air for up to 3 hours after an infected person coughs; and its presence is seen on some surfaces for up to 17 days after initial contact. Knowing what to do if you think you’ve been exposed to an infected person is crucial in curbing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, it is equally important to take preventative measures to lower your risk of contracting the virus.
Quick Facts About Coronavirus
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that spreads from person-to-person
- Severe cases can cause pneumonia and/or organ failure
- Main symptoms include fever, dry cough, and shortness of breath
- Its incubation period is about 2 weeks long, meaning it takes 2 weeks for symptoms to show
- Some infected people are asymptomatic, meaning they will not experience symptoms
- People infected by the virus are contagious during the incubation period
- The virus can last up to 3 hours in the air and is found after up to 17 days on surfaces
- There is not yet a vaccine for the virus
- It is far more dangerous than the seasonal flu
Safety Precautions For Law Enforcement Officers
As the COVID-19 situation develops, make sure to stay up-to-date with the CDC’s advice on safety precautions. Currently, the best ways you and your fellow officers can combat the spread of infection include:
- Washing hands frequently.
The virus particle itself is held together by a lipid bilayer that acts as “glue” that holds each part of the virus together. Antibacterial soap and water are very effective at dissolving this bilayer, thus disassembling the virus and making it inactive.
- Utilize Your Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Ensure your PPE kit is fully stocked and available to you while in the field should. Use disposable examination gloves for every interaction. If you’re responding to a situation that requires close contact, try to limit your exposure to persons who may be ill and wear your PPE.
The minimum PPE recommended by the CDC:
- A single pair of disposable examination gloves
- Disposable isolation gown or single-use/disposable coveralls
- Any NIOSH-approved particulate respirator (N-95 or half-face, reusable respirators with P100 filter); These respirators should be cleaned with warm water and soap, then wiped down with household disinfectant, including the filter cartridges. Facemasks are an acceptable alternative until the supply chain is restored.
- Eye protection (goggles or disposable face shield that fully covers the front and sides of the face)
- Social distancing.
The virus’ main mode of transmission is from person-to-person contact and airborne droplets caused by coughing and sneezing. Although you won’t be able to adhere to social distancing 100% of the time, try to keep 6 feet away from other people when possible. Anyone you suspect might have COVID-19 should be transported to a healthcare facility by a trained Emergency Medical Service/Emergency Medical Technician.
- Disinfect equipment daily.
Duty belts and other gear should be cleaned using disinfecting wipes or spray daily. If your uniform has come into contact with bodily fluid (saliva, sneezed/coughed on or exposed to blood) change into a clean uniform as soon as possible and launder the clothing in hot water/soap. Ensure your patrol car is also disinfected after each transport using disinfectant wipes.
- Quarantining if you feel symptoms.
If you feel symptoms of COVID-19, stay at home for 2 weeks and isolate yourself from others. If symptoms get worse or if they start severe, call a doctor before going in to get tested. Showing up unannounced can put others at risk.
- Avoiding touching your face.
Although the virus is mainly transmitted through the air, the CDC has said the virus can live on surfaces. If you touch an infected surface and then touch your eyes, nose, or mouth, the virus can enter your body. This is why proper handwashing and use of PPE is essential.
- Covering coughs and sneezes.
Cough or sneeze into your elbow or a tissue and then wash your clothes/dispose of that tissue. Wash your hands immediately.
Disinfecting Coronavirus (COVID-19)
If someone at work is confirmed to have the virus, CDC recommends:
- Close off areas used by the sick person.
- Open outside doors and windows to increase air circulation in the area.
- Wait 24 hours before you clean or disinfect. If 24 hours is not feasible, wait as long as possible.
- Clean and disinfect all areas used by the sick person, such as offices, bathrooms, common areas, shared electronic equipment like tablets, touch screens, keyboards, remote controls, and ATMs.
The process CDC recommends:
- Clean the area or item with soap and water or another detergent if it is dirty. Then, use disinfectant.
- Use EPA-registered household disinfectant (from EPA list of emergent viral claim products).
- Follow the instructions on the label to ensure safe and effective use of the product.
Be aware that there are certain regulatory requirements that must be met in order for a business or property to be in compliance with OSHA and EPA regulations:
- OSHA’s Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) standards (29 CFR 1910 Subpart I), require training when using gloves, eye and face protection, and respiratory protection.
- When respirators are necessary to protect workers, employers must implement a comprehensive respiratory protection program in accordance with the OSHA’s Respiratory Protection standard (29 CFR 1910.134). This includes a written program, respirator fit tests and medical clearance to wear air-purifying respirators. NOTE: Facemasks that are worn to protect others from the spread of pathogens and not to protect the wearer do not have the fit test and medical clearance requirements.
- OSHA has issued a statement regarding COVID-19 Waste: “…use typical engineering and administrative controls, safe work practices, and PPE, such as puncture-resistant gloves and face and eye protection, to prevent worker exposure to the waste streams (or types of wastes), including any contaminants in the materials, they manage. Such measures can help protect workers from sharps and other items that can cause injuries or exposures to infectious materials.” Failure to properly manage the waste could lead to cross-contamination and further infection risks.
- CDC says that most household disinfectants are effective at reducing the risk of infection, but it is important to use only disinfectants that are registered with the EPA. Specifically, those that have emerging virus claims offer the best protection against SARS-CoV-2 pathogens.
- OSHA has recently issued a pamphlet entitled, Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19. This document is a valuable source of information for employers who want to address the COVID-19 situation. It will help identify at risk employees and provide risk mitigation strategies to employ.
For additional information, please see our Coronavirus Cleaning service page.
Call in a Professional Commercial Coronavirus Disinfection Service
Aftermath Services has been the nation’s #1 biohazard remediation and virucidal disinfection expert for over 25 years. We practice CDC and OSHA-compliant cleanup protocols and use state-of-the-art chemicals and PPE. Attempting to clean after a confirmed coronavirus infection will only put you and those around you at risk by spreading the virus further. A serious threat requires serious safety measures — ones that professional virus remediation experts like Aftermath Services practice with every case. Call 877-769-6917 for immediate assistance.
COVID-19 Law Enforcement Resources
- What Law Enforcement Personnel Need to Know about Coronavirus
- Summary of Key Changes for the EMS Guidance
- Police Response to COVID-19