Claremont police staffers test positive for COVID-19

by Steven Felschundneff | steven@claremont-courier.com

Last Friday, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reported three new local institutional outbreaks of the coronavirus, including at the Claremont Police Department.

In addition to those at CPD, the new institutional outbreaks include Mountain View Center on Base Line Road, where five residents have tested positive, and four people at biomedical manufacturing firm Therapak.

Claremont Police Chief Shelly Vander Veen issued a statement Saturday providing further details on the outbreak at the department.

“The men and woman of the Claremont Police Department work 24/7 to provide critical and essential services to our community. Working in consultation with the county and state, we established safety protocols to minimize the possible spread of COVID-19 which we have been adhering to since March. Unfortunately, several members of our department have tested positive for COVID-19 this week. These employees and employees in contact with them have been tested and quarantined. We are focused on the health and safety of our employees while we continue to protect and serve our community,” said Chief Vander Veen.

According to the chief, two dispatchers developed flu-like symptoms 10 days ago and subsequently tested positive for the virus. During that same timeframe a police officer also felt ill and tested positive.

After identifying the outbreak, which is defined as three or more cases in an institutional setting, police officials directed all appropriate administrative staff to telecommute to minimize contact with other employees, and notified the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

“Claremont Police Department employees who were potentially exposed to the staff members are being quarantined and tested,” chief Vander Veen said.

That round of testing revealed two additional cases, a records clerk and another police officer.

The chief also reported that over a month ago an officer tested positive, so the total number of positive cases at CPD since the beginning of the pandemic stands at six.

Since March, the police department has been following several protocols to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

These precautionary steps include: daily temperature and infection checks on all personnel prior to reporting to work; staggered schedules; telecommuting for the detective bureau; restricted access to police facilities including limiting access based on assignment; procurement and distribution of personal protective equipment; increased cleaning of station including the jail; adopting a policy requiring face coverings and social distancing; and meetings via video conferencing and phone reporting.

In its daily news release on Wednesday public health reported 295 cumulative cases in the city of Claremont and its incorporated areas. This represents an approximately 10 percent increase in new cases in one week and a 51 percent increase during the past month. Seven Claremont residents have died from COVID-19.

Older institutional outbreaks in Claremont, including the one at Claremont Manor, appear to have stabilized as the county has not reported any new cases.

Public healgh also recommends that colleges and universities in Los Angeles County must continue to deliver the majority of their instruction through distance learning due in part to high rates of community transmission being driven by increasing coronavirus cases among young people.

In-person training and instruction for students who are or will become part of the essential workforce are permitted, but only for required activities that cannot be accomplished through virtual learning, according to the public health statement. Faculty and other staff may be present on campus for the purpose of providing distance learning and other related activities as well as maintaining minimum basic operations.

Universities should limit on-campus housing to students who have no alternative place to live.

The new rules for colleges are an attempt to slow the spread of the virus among the young adults, as 25 to 30 percent of new infections are among those 18 to 30 years of age.

On Wednesday, public health confirmed 58 deaths and 2,428 new cases of COVID-19 in LA County.  Seventy-one percent of new cases occurred in people under 50 years old. The county now reports 214,197 cumulative cases and a total of 5,109 deaths.

There are 1,538 people currently hospitalized, 32 percent of whom are in the ICU. Between March and July, residents 30 to 65 years old have accounted for about 50 percent of all people hospitalized with the coronavirus.

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