According to a recent report, Covid was the top cause of death in the line of duty for US law enforcement for the third year in a row in 2022, although the pace has slowed down.
When the pandemic first hit, many law enforcement officers did what they could to reduce their risks of catching COVID-19 — taking some reports over the phone rather than in person, within departments and with the public. Try to limit contact with.
Working on the front lines made some face-to-face contact inevitable — and, as a result, has led to the deaths of hundreds of law enforcement officers as Covid swept through America. In 2020, there were at least 346 confirmed on-duty COVID deaths, and at least 301 work-related deaths from COVID in 2021.
The actual death toll from Covid among law enforcement is certainly higher, because tests were scarce and because such reports only include line-of-duty deaths.
According to a report by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, the total number of Covid deaths in 2022 will be significantly lower than the previous two years, with 70 deaths occurring in the line of duty, but it will still exceed other on-the-job mortality rates. All reason is left behind. Fund (NLEOMF).
“It’s encouraging to see that the number-one cause of death, Covid-19, has really dropped dramatically over the last three years,” said Bill Alexander, NLEOMF’s executive director. “But the reality is that we still face a significant number of men and women dying [from] Kovid in connection with his job.
As emergency measures implemented during the pandemic end, a key method of counting line-of-duty deaths from Covid will soon disappear, making the virus’s toll difficult to understand. It will also imply loss of benefits for the families of officers who die due to getting infected with Covid in the course of their duties.
According to a report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), protective service personnel, including police officers, have had the highest Covid death rate of any occupation.
Viruses also have lasting effects that cannot be counted in tallies like these. Long COVID is a major health concern, with an increased risk of cardiovascular events, stroke, and other serious illnesses following a COVID infection.
And the pandemic has also caused psychological harm, with 58% executives saying their mental well-being was somewhat affected, 14% saying it was greatly affected and 2% who were severely affected by Covid, according to a study.
For officials, “you still have to be on the streets, interacting directly with people — often with people who don’t have much regard for your health,” said David Dowdy, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of he said. public health.
But the risks are not evenly distributed across America.
Texas has by far the largest number of line-of-duty deaths, with 223 deaths, or a fifth of all US police deaths, according to a tally by the Fraternal Order of Police through September 2022. Texas is the nation’s second most populous state — but California, the most populous state, had only 72 line-of-duty deaths over the same time period.
Those officers often left behind children and families. Lonnie Snead, 50, was training John Mestas, 45, who started working at the Double Oaks Police Department in Texas three months ago. They both got infected with Covid while at work and they both died. The Sneeds had five children and a granddaughter, the Mestas had four.
In North Carolina, Michael Godwin, 41, caught Covid while working as a detective and died soon after. He never met the child he and his wife were expecting.
“Death still matters,” Dowdy said. “It should always be important, we should always care when people are dying … and I think it’s important for us to ask why that is, and what can be done.”
Covid vaccines are very effective at preventing severe disease and death, especially in people who receive regular boosters. But it is unclear how many law enforcement officers across the country are currently vaccinated and boosted.
Some first responders opposed the vaccine mandate, threatening to quit their jobs if they were required to get vaccinated. Experts said it may be more about the political climate than vaccines.
Officers may have been resistant to being told the vaccine was needed, even if they did not oppose the shots themselves – especially since they face increased scrutiny at a time of renewed scrutiny of police violence. and the pushback on the mandate underscored existing tensions within the departments.
“There was a very small but vocal contingent of people across the country who had questions,” Alexander said. “But I think the reality is that the vast, vast majority of police professionals, people in law enforcement, were eager to take advantage of a vaccine.”
As organizations struggle to protect law enforcement officers and other frontline workers, it may soon become more difficult to measure Covid deaths among police. Benefits for public safety officers provided to families following on-duty deaths from COVID will expire at the end of 2023.
If benefits are not renewed, COVID will not be considered a line-of-duty death – making it even more difficult to understand how COVID puts law enforcement at risk.
Once the national public health emergency is over, it may be even more difficult to access tests, vaccines and treatments.
Due to the nature of law enforcement work, which often requires constant interaction with the public, it can be difficult to lose track of the prevalence of COVID and even serve the public with measures to prevent it.
Although the number of Covid deaths is now lower than the sharpest peaks, hundreds of Americans still die every day. Alexander said that protecting the public and those who serve them still needed to be a priority.
“There is no question in my mind that we will certainly continue to die of Covid for the rest of our lifetime.”