About 2,500 Las Vegas police officers have been put on two-week quarantines following incidents of potential exposure to COVID-19 since March, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo said Saturday.
The clarification came after Las Vegas police union officials in a debut podcast Friday said more than 2,000 officers had been quarantined but did not explain whether that figure was current or as of the start of the pandemic.
As of Saturday, 306 Metropolitan Police Department officers were currently under quarantine, Lombardo told the Review-Journal.
Steve Grammas and Daniel Coyne — the respective president and director of the Las Vegas Police Protective Association — host the new “PPA Podcast,” in which they discuss “police issues locally and nationally along with some humor,” according to a Spotify description.
In the debut episode posted Friday, Coyne casually said that many officers who have been instructed to self-isolate after possible exposure have been healthy, suggesting that the department has been overeager in ordering employees to stay home.
Lombardo on Saturday rebutted the claim.
“You realize how contagious it is,” the sheriff told the Review-Journal, adding that the health and wellness of his employees is his top concern.
Since March, 479 Metro officers have tested positive for the coronavirus, Lombardo said. As of Saturday, 405 have returned to work.
In July, veteran Metro Lt. Erik Lloyd died after contracting COVID-19. He was 53 and had planned to retire in December.
Time off for quarantine
In continued casual conversation, Coyne in the podcast said that self-isolating officers have been threatened with discipline if they leave their homes during the quarantine period.
For instance, such officers have been told to avoid grocery stores and instead have their groceries delivered, according to the podcast. They have also been instructed to use their own accrued paid time off to cover their absence.
“It’s like a communist country that we’re living right now,” Coyne said.
Lombardo on Saturday said officers are only asked to use their own time to cover quarantine periods if they contracted the virus outside of work or if they broke quarantine protocols during the required two-week period — to attend a party, for instance.
“It’s only if they’re in violation of quarantine protocols,” he said, which he noted applied to few officers.
According to the podcast, the union has filed “a lot” of grievances with the department on behalf of complaining officers. The union also recently sent a letter to Metro, arguing that issues involving officer discipline and potential discharge are mandatory subjects of bargaining and are subject to union input.
“When you’re forced to stay home ‘cause of your fear of being disciplined for a runny nose — that’s got to be negotiated,” Grammas said in the podcast.
“They haven’t come to the table with us at all,” Coyne later added.
Grammas did not respond to a Friday evening request for a copy of the letter.
On the podcast, Grammas and Coyne also said that the union letter recommended that Metro implement Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines specific to “critical infrastructure,” which would allow certain employees including law enforcement to continue working following COVID-19 exposure, provided that they are asymptomatic and “additional precautions are implemented.”
Focus on safety
Lombardo on Saturday said the department is cautiously using contract tracing to determine when officers should self-isolate. He said he would like the 306 officers currently at home to be able to work, but he would rather they and others be safe.
Metro employs more than 700 corrections officers and more than 3,200 uniformed patrol officers, detectives, supervisors and top brass, according to a January roster. The positions and ranks of the officers who have been instructed to self-isolate are unclear.
Nevada on Saturday reported more than 2,000 new coronavirus cases in the state. It marked the second day in a row that the state set a record for the number of cases reported in a single day.