Officials investigating possible COVID outbreak after 3 police officers test positive in 2 days

Long Beach officials are investigating a possible COVID-19 outbreak in the police department after three officers tested positive in the span of a few days, a spokeswoman said.

Two officers assigned to the North Division tested positive and were last at work Nov. 6 and 7, respectively. Another officer assigned to the South Division tested positive and was last at work Nov. 7, officials said.

None of the three are Long Beach residents and are recovering at home.

It’s possible that the increased staffing for election week contributed to the new cases, Long Beach Police Officer Association president Rich Chambers said. The LBPD went into tactical alert in the lead up and following the election in anticipation of possible civil unrest, with officers working 12-hour shifts and limiting days off. While officers have masks and other personal protective equipment, they still have to be in contact with the public, he said.

“Our police officers have not stopped going to work, not stopped interacting with the public, these are the dangers that we face,” Chambers said.

This outbreak comes as health officials in Long Beach and Los Angeles County are seeing a new wave of COVID-19 cases. Long Beach health director Kelly Colopy on Thursday urged residents to wear masks, avoid seeing people outside your household and to maintain distance. County health director Barbara Ferrer warned more restrictions could be coming if the county does not slow the number of new cases.

City officials announce each time a public-facing city employee tests positive for the virus and when they were last at work, but usually those announcements include one or two employees at a time. The virus swept through a Long Beach fire station in March, infecting at least 10 firefighters.

As of Thursday, the police department has had 44 total cases of COVID-19, 36 of whom are sworn officers and eight who are civilians, spokeswoman Jennifer Rice Epstein said

Each time an employee tests positive for the virus, the city will conduct contact tracing and deep clean any areas the infected employee has been. Any employees who may have been exposed are then removed from work, Epstein said.

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Valerie Osier is the Social Media & Newsletter Manager for the Long Beach Post. She started at the Post in 2018 as a breaking news reporter. She’s a Riverside native who found her love for journalism while at community college. She graduated from the Cal State Long Beach journalism program in 2017 and covered the Palos Verdes Peninsula for the Daily Breeze prior to coming to the Post. She lives in Long Beach with her husband and two cats.