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Southwest District officers return to work after brief closure due to positive coronavirus test

More than one hundred officers assigned to the Baltimore Police Department’s Southwest District returned to work after the district briefly for cleaning when an officer first tested for the new coronavirus.

Three officers at the district have tested positive, and 42 others remain quarantined, Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said at a news conference Tuesday.

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“We are slowly getting back to normal operations,” he said. “All of our officers either screened or tested,” and the Southwest District station house and vehicles were cleaned, Harrison said.

The department previously said all personnel assigned to the district would be tested, but in a statement on Monday, the department said only some officers would be tested for COVID-19.

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“Our health partners coordinated with the department’s Infectious Control Officer to evaluate all officers and civilians assigned to the district to determine what members needed to be tested, in accordance with CDC and medical guidelines,” the statement said.

Officers who didn’t show symptoms, or who didn’t come into the building, for example, were evaluated by the health partners, and might not have required a test, police spokeswoman Lindsey Eldridge said.

Additionally, the department has begun new protocols for officers to complete daily health checks, including twice a day body temperature checks.

Across the entire department, 115 of the 2,500 sworn officers remain quarantined. A total of 309 have been quarantined since the beginning of the pandemic, he said.

A total of 12 officers have tested positive and another 59 had pending tests Tuesday.

“We’re working to make sure, as much as possible, we can protect our people,” Harrison said. "Just about all of our officers” have received N95 masks and additional personal protective equipment, he said.

“As it comes it, we are continuing to distribute it,” he said.

Harrison said that the pandemic has not limited the department in its efforts to respond to crime.

“Even amidst a pandemic, the culture of violence is still very pervasive, and people are still trying to solve their conflicts with gun violence," he said.

Speaking about a recent officer-involved shooting during which three officers shot an armed man in East Baltimore last week, Harrison said incident shows officers are not falling down on the job.

“Officers are engaging, the officers are being proactive," he said. "The officers are not backing down but were running toward the danger to make sure we remove violent offenders from the streets of Baltimore, and we will continue to do that.”

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