Law Enforcement Will Police a Pandemic… But How?

You’ve seen the lists of do’s and don’ts when it comes to trying to avoid the flu and other viruses, right?

Do wash your hands frequently. Do get plenty of sleep and rest. Do eat healthy foods. Do drink plenty of fluids. Do exercise regularly.

Don’t sneeze into your hands. Don’t touch your face. Don’t drink too much alcohol. Don’t get too close to someone who is ill.

While this is sound advice, there’s a group of people who won’t have the luxury of avoiding sick people if the coronavirus turns into a global pandemic. And expands in the U.S.

Putting themselves in harm’s way

I’m referring to police officers. When they and other first responders answer calls for help from the sick and injured, they can’t say, “Sorry, I don’t want to risk becoming ill.”

Their entire careers revolve around putting themselves in harm’s way to protect the public. And a pandemic won’t change that situation.

Whether it’s violent protests, rioting, bomb threats or a disease outbreak, police officers are always on the scene.

There is a chance they will be injured, sickened and possibly even killed while performing their duties. They knew this going in, but it doesn’t make it any easier.

Coronavirus a “likely” global pandemic

Police officers will take a leading role in handling the results of a pandemic. So, how will they tackle this challenge in the U.S. if the coronavirus sickens or kills thousands of people?

This isn’t just speculation. Health officials around the world are concerned about the potential for this coronavirus. It has already infected 72,000 and killed 1,800 in China. Confirmed cases are growing in other countries as well. Including America.

Dr. Nancy Messonnier says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is taking steps to prepare for the coronavirus to “take a foothold in the U.S.” She’s the director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

And Harvard epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch said that “it’s likely we’ll see a global pandemic” of coronavirus. With 40 to 70 percent of the world’s population likely to be infected this year.

Guarding quarantine zones

One of the first steps law enforcement men and women will take if the coronavirus expands in the U.S. is trying to control panic.

Many people will be very anxious about the situation. Police will remind them that taking a number of basic precautions will help limit the spread of the virus.

Police will also need to patrol quarantine zones to make sure no one is traveling in and out of them.

Public transportation may be shut down for some time. That means police will also need to direct both automobile and pedestrian traffic.

Crowd control challenge

There is likely to be a run on surgical masks. And on medications with the potential to protect or limit dangers from the coronavirus. That means crowd control activities for police officers at hospitals. Plus doctor’s offices and pharmacies across the country.

The same situation is likely to occur at grocery stores. Many of which will probably run low on food due to delivery disruptions. No doubt fights will break out as people try to secure desperately needed supplies for their families.

Schools are likely to temporarily shut down if the coronavirus becomes a pandemic.

Most parents will know to keep their children at home.

But if they are not there to supervise, teenagers will be out on the streets. And that will make police officers’ jobs even more challenging.

Up close and personal

The task of transporting sick individuals to healthcare facilities normally belongs to first responders.

But if the coronavirus becomes an epidemic, those first responders will be overwhelmed with work.

There is no doubt that police officers will need to rush some people to hospitals. And every time they do, they’ll be in close proximity to people showing symptoms of their disease.

The officers will wear respirator masks, but the risk will still be there. And they will be very much aware of that.

Civil unrest will follow

Unfortunately, there is a certain segment of the population that waits for a crisis to develop before they act out.

Once they see that law enforcement is stretched thin and can’t provide their normal protection, they will cause problems.

This will include looting, arson and violent acts against innocent civilians. Police will be called into perilous situations in an attempt to quell the upheaval.

But they are likely to be outnumbered. It’s even possible that some neighborhoods will be too dangerous for them to enter.

Officer down

At some point – probably sooner rather than later – some police officers will succumb to the coronavirus. Others will be injured or killed in the line of duty.

And when that happens, other officers will be required to add even more hours to the overtime they’ve been putting in.

The more tired those officers become, the more susceptible they will be to getting sick.

They will do everything in their power to continue working hard. But at some point, exhaustion is certain to set in.

A debt of gratitude

In all these situations, police officers won’t be home tending to their own families’ needs. They will be out on the streets, working overtime. And jeopardizing their health trying to keep others safe.

Rather than keeping their distance to avoid contact with infected people, they’ll enter the fray for the greater good.

We already owe a huge debt of gratitude to law enforcement individuals who risk their lives to maintain the peace.

If the coronavirus becomes a pandemic, our men and women in blue will continue to exemplify what it truly means to serve and protect.

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