City confirms 32 first responders test positive for coronavirus

By , Daily Memphian Updated: April 09, 2020 9:31 AM CT | Published: April 08, 2020 3:38 PM CT

Thirty-two Memphis police and fire department personnel, excluding civilian MPD employees, have tested positive for the coronavirus, officials confirmed Wednesday, April 8.

It is the first time officials have confirmed the total number of public safety employees who have tested positive for COVID-19.

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City of Memphis spokesman Dan Springer said 13 police officers tested positive. 

In addition to the 13 officers, Springer said three MPD civilian employees have tested positive and a total of 96 MPD employees are under quarantine.

Lt. Wayne Cooke, spokesman for the Memphis Fire Department, said 19 fire personnel — from firefighters to paramedics — have tested positive. He said 112 have been quarantined overall and that 84 of those 112 are expected back at work Thursday, April 9. 

Thomas Malone, president of the Memphis Fire Fighters Association, said the union’s count showed a much higher number of firefighters — 199 — have been quarantined.

He agreed, however, that about 80 should be back at work Thursday, April 9.

When someone at a fire station tests positive, Malone said the city has contracted with a company to disinfect the station by spraying the building. The department also bought equipment to disinfect the apparatus and equipment.

He said the department of 1,700 personnel is fully staffed and they continue to work on the frontlines.

“Obviously, our people are very concerned with everything going on, but our leadership got way ahead of the curve. They ordered a bunch of stuff in advance to get prepared for it, so we’re alright as of today. But as you know with something like this, it puts us on a day-to-day situation,” Malone said.

He said the first responders are wearing their PPE’s — personal protective equipment — when they respond to calls, and they have enough PPE’s for the next two weeks and are expecting more soon.

Malone said personnel are practicing social distancing and analyzing and taking notes before they do anything if it is not an emergency call.

“We are doing everything we can do to protect ourselves and, of course, if we protect ourselves, we protect our citizens and our families,” Malone said.

He said fire officials are meeting daily with the COVID-19 task force by teleconference to discuss the situation locally.

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The fire department and the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office have disclosed how many of their staff have been affected by the coronavirus, but Wednesday was the first time the city released information on the number of MPD officers who tested positive for the virus.

Last month and earlier this month, city and police officials cited confidentiality laws and would not disclose the number of officers who tested positive.

At a virtual press conference Tuesday, April 7, Memphis COO Doug McGowen was asked by the media about a report that 500 officers tested positive for COVID-19, and he said that report was not true.

He said it was a smaller number overall of first responders but did not disclose a number of officers, firefighters or paramedics who have tested positive.

Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings self-quarantined for two weeks after returning from international travel, according to the police department.

The department would not disclose where Rallings traveled, but The Daily Memphian was sent photos of Rallings with the Memphis in May delegation that traveled to Ghana last month. 

Rallings is back at work, officials confirmed earlier this week.

The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office said Monday, April 6, that 14 employees, including three who work at correctional facilities at 201 Poplar and Juvenile Court, have tested positive in addition to an inmate at the downtown jail. Sheriff Floyd Bonner said no deputy has tested positive.

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Yolanda Jones

Yolanda Jones

Yolanda Jones covers criminal justice issues and general assignment news for The Daily Memphian. She previously was a reporter at The Commercial Appeal.


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