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Detroit Police Reports First Employee Death Related to COVID-19

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Image credit: Marissa Gawel/WDET

The 38-year-old Detroit Police call center employee traveled abroad before returning to work and exhibiting symptoms. He died in a hospital before testing positive for COVID-19.

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A 911 dispatcher employed by the Detroit Police Department has died from complications related to COVID-19. 

City officials say the 38-year-old dispatcher traveled abroad before showing symptoms for the respiratory illness and later entered an intensive care unit at a nearby hospital. DPD is quarantining those who may have been exposed to the phone operator. 

Everybody in the world is anxious. But these men and women know one thing, it’s to protect and serve and that supersedes all.” - Detroit Police Chief James Craig

At the time of publication, 280 people in the city’s police department are in self-quarantine from possible exposure to the respiratory illness. Nine have tested positive for COVID-19. Detroit is reporting more than 563 cases of COVID-19.

Switching Call Centers

Police Chief James Craig says the dispatcher was a veteran of the force and a long-time city employee.

He was beloved,” says Craig. “He was respected by all who worked with him. He’s going to be truly missed.”

The call center continued to operate while the dispatcher was hospitalized in the early days of the outbreak. He died before a positive test result was announced. Mayor Mike Duggan says police responded quickly when they found out.

The department literally packed up and moved in a very short period of time to the other center so that we could do a deep clean of the communication department,” says Duggan.


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Craig says police are shifting tactics during Detroit’s coronavirus outbreak, like backing off from low-level misdemeanor offenses and communicating electronically.

Duggan says police officers are taking extra shifts during the outbreak to maintain full staffing.

Maintaining Morale And Distance

Dr. Robert Dunne, Detroit’s public safety medical director, says there’s a robust protocol when an emergency service worker comes in contact with an infectious disease.

We’re isolating that individual and then we’re informing and tracking everyone who could have been exposed to that to assess who had primary exposure,” says Dunne.

Dunne is urging public workers that feel sick not to come into work.

Craig says the department’s morale has been encouraging even through the stress of the crisis.

Everybody in the world is anxious,” says Chief Craig. ”But these men and women know one thing, it’s to protect and serve and that supersedes all.”

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Eli Newman, Reporter/Producer

Eli Newman is a Reporter/Producer for 101.9 WDET, covering breaking news, politics and community affairs. His favorite Motown track is “It’s The Same Old Song” by the Four Tops.

eli.newman@wdet.org Follow @other_eli

This post is a part of Coronavirus in Michigan.

101.9 WDET, Detroit’s NPR Station, is committed to providing accurate, up-to-date information on coronavirus, and it's related illness COVID-19, in Michigan. 

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