When COVID-19 first broke out no one in the United States thought much of it, since it began on the other side of the world. But for New Yorkers the world is a much smaller place when taking into account air traffic from JFK and Newark International Airports, both under 15 miles from Manhattan and less than an hours train ride. According to the JFK’s website, JFK had over 34.6k flights in January of 2020, only a slight decrease from 35.6k in December 2019, and Newark had 35.1k in January, down from 36k in December. Both hubs serve as not only destinations but connections to cities all around the world, a hotbed for pathogens to spread. This is back when China first began seeing a spike in illnesses, cause still unknown at the time.
America sat back in its recliner chair as the city of Wuhan, China began to make news. For most of the population this was the first time they ever heard of Wuhan and its over 10 million inhabitants– now infamously known for its Huanan seafood market (noted as the live animal market). Meanwhile, back in NYC, in a few weeks time COVID-19 was already running rampant through a population of 8.3 million. New Yorker’s walked around blind to a virus that couldn’t be seen, and still had yet to be identified. Now, months later, as citizens socially distance themselves by staying at home those on the frontlines are in the trenches. And NYC police officers are no exception, reporting to duty as normal to keep the city alive and safe.
City officers, especially those stationed at highly trafficked locations, are one of the highest jobs at risk for exposure. Fortunately, as alerts for COVID-19 began to rise the department enforced precautionary measures. Memos stated that those feeling sick or showing any symptoms (cough, fever, difficulty breathing) were to take a sick leave and self quarantine immediately for 14 days. Only those who tested negative were allowed to return to work. But, according to the CDC, symptoms don’t begin to appear until anywhere from two to 14 days after exposure. It was only after people began testing positive that gloves and N95 masks were distributed. Which means as police officers were once walking around without gloves and masks the potential for infection continued to spread.
In one patrol unit, of approximately 250 officers around 15 cases reported positive with many more out awaiting results. During the pandemic there’s been a tremendous sense of understanding, as units encourage officers to remain home to focus on their health. While things haven’t needed to shift gears just yet, contingency plans include longer hours or transferring of personnel to meet department staffing needs.
As of April 9 at 5 PM EST, NYC Health COVID-19 data reports 87,725 confirmed cases with an estimated 21,571 hospitalized. The spike in deaths rose by 1,042 in less than 19 hours– going from 4,778 at 5 PM on April 9 to totaling 5,820 at 11:30 AM on April 10. The numbers continue to climb as New Yorkers socially distance themselves, transforming the city that never sleeps into a scene out of a post-apocalyptic movie. For now, all there is to do is stay inside, disinfect as many surfaces as possible, and thank your frontline workers.