For the first time since the coronavirus outbreak began in New York City, the NYPD had more of its members returning to work than calling out sick, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea reported Friday.
The department broke on April 10 a 27-day streak of increased absences resulting from officers and staff members contracting COVID-19. Shea called it a “light at the end of the tunnel,” expressing pride and relief that more than 600 uniformed members who had tested positive for the virus — and had recovered — were back on the job Friday.
The pandemic has been especially rough for the NYPD, which still has close to 20% of its staff on sick leave, Shea noted. Seventeen of its members have died of the illness, including Bronx Detective Cedric Dixon and Police Officer Eric Murray, who was assigned to Manhattan’s 25th Precinct.
“We’re mourning, we’re hurting. We’ve lost a lot of good people,” Shea said of the 17 fatalities. “I hope there’s not an 18th [death]. I hope that everyone has a speedy recovery in the hospital, that they’re getting the best possible healthcare they can, [and] that everyone is fighting through this.”
During his broadcast, Shea brought on two NYPD officers, both assigned to Brooklyn, who were back on duty after recovering from coronavirus: Police Officers Chris Calvagna from the 75th Precinct and Kenny DuBois from the 90th Precinct. The officers reported that they were feeling 100% and thanked the commissioner, the department and their families for their support.
Speaking directly to all NYPD members, Shea applauded those who have served throughout the pandemic for their work to keep New York safe. But he cautioned them that, even as the city appears to be “flattening the curve,” they must do everything possible to remain safe on the job.
Shea urged the officers to practice social distancing on the beat and in the stationhouse, and to use masks, gloves and protective gear. The NYPD is fully stocked with such supplies, the commissioner noted: On Thursday, the department distributed 28,000 N95 masks, 53,000 surgical masks and 19,000 pairs of gloves to its officers.
“If we are at the top of that mountain, we’ve still got to go down the other side,” Shea said. “And you’re still just as likely to get sick at the end of this as you were at the beginning.”
The commissioner applauded various acts of heroism that police officers have demonstrated in recent days. He particularly lauded two Highway Patrol members on Staten Island who stopped a speeding vehicle and found a mother in labor. The officers helped deliver the baby in the car, then escorted the parents to the hospital.
“When they arrived at the hospital, they were met with doctors and nurses at the hospital cheering,” Shea noted, “cheering to have something good at this time.”
This story first appeared on amny.com.