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Hialeah officer is second cop to contract coronavirus in Miami-Dade County, sources say

Miami Herald logo Miami Herald 3/24/2020 By Charles Rabin, The Miami Herald

A Hialeah narcotics detective tested positive for the novel coronavirus late last week, according to law enforcement sources, forcing several other members of the department to self-quarantine in the growing pandemic that is slowly seeping into the ranks of first responders across South Florida.

Hialeah police and city administrators did not respond to several phone calls about the positive test. And it remained unclear how many officers in the department came into contact with the infected officer and are staying home in self-isolation, which usually lasts about two weeks. The source said less than a dozen officers have been quarantined. The city has about 300 sworn police officers.

The positive test, which came late last week after the officer learned of contact with someone who had the infection, is the second publicly acknowledged positive test of a police officer in an agency in Miami-Dade County.

“He was following up on a case when he came in contact with someone. He was tested last week. The test came back positive. Now they’re backtracking and he’s been isolated since the test,” said a source.

Late Saturday night, Miami Beach Police Chief Rick Clements sent an email to members of his department saying an officer had tested positive and was sent home after being concerned about a cough. On Monday morning, police spokesman Ernesto Rodriguez said several officers who came into contact with the infected officer have self-quarantined, but that no one else in the department had tested positive for the virus.

Clements said he spoke with the officer over the weekend, who was in “good spirits.” Miami Beach has just over 400 sworn cops.

At the Miami-Dade Police Department — the largest in the southeast U.S., with more than 3,000 sworn officers — not a single officer had tested positive for the virus by Monday, said Detective Christopher Sowerby-Thomas. He said 30 officers have self-isolated after either showing symptoms during a pre-shift screening or not feeling well and that 20 of them had already returned to work. Of the remaining 10 still self-isolated, eight are expected to return to work on Tuesday, Sowerby-Thomas said.

Also Monday, one Broward Sheriff’s firefighter tested positive. BSO spokeswoman Gerdy St. Louis said the firefighter is believed to have caught the virus after a call to service that involved a sick person.

“He’s isolated and recuperating,” St. Louis said. “No other firefighters are in isolation.”

The Miami Herald requested information on whether anyone at the Broward Sheriff’s Office had been infected with the virus or quarantined for protection, but hadn’t heard back from BSO as of late Monday afternoon.

The city of MIami Police Department, with 1,300 sworn officers, seems to have been hit the hardest by the effects of the virus.

Though no officer has tested positive, at least 34 officers and the city’s police chief have been sent home to self-isolate in the past two weeks. The city’s entire motorcycle squad went into self-isolation on March 12, after learning that several members of a Brazilian delegation it had been escorting tested positive for the quickly spreading virus that has now infected more than 350,000 people worldwide and over 30,000 just in the U.S.

In Florida alone, as of Monday evening, more than 1,200 people had tested positive for the infection and 18 had died.

Since last week, when most agencies began screening officers for coughs or fever before each shift, Miami said it had sent 13 more officers home as a precaution. Miami-Dade said all of its officers passed the screenings as of the end of last week and in Coral Gables, three cops were sent home to quarantine, including two who had just returned from a trip abroad.


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