CORONAVIRUS

Half of Hiawatha Police Department tested positive for COVID-19, chief says

Hiawatha Police Department SUV. (Hiawatha PD Facebook page photo)
Hiawatha Police Department SUV. (Hiawatha PD Facebook page photo)

Half of the officers at the Hiawatha Police Department tested positive for COVID-19, according to Hiawatha Police Chief Dennis Marks.

The chief told The Gazette on Friday afternoon that eight officers became ill at the same time last weekend. All, he said, were recovering at home and have been cleared by Linn County Public Health to return to normal duty next week.

The Hiawatha Police Department employs 16 officers, 12 of whom respond to calls for service. Many of the officers, he said, serve multiple functions.

The chief said it is unclear when, where or how the officers were exposed.

“Public Health told us you will never know where the exposure came from,” Marks said. “Most people chalk up the very minor initial symptoms to just life’s aches and pains. Two days later when you realize you’re sick, it’s too late — you’ve infected too many people. All my people became sick last weekend (and) seven were on days off.”

All eight officers were supplied with proper personal protective equipment, including masks, the chief said, though the officers were not necessarily wearing masks on every call. That has since changed.

“Officers are required to follow the city policy for social distancing and mask wearing while in the office,” he said. “Officers are now wearing masks any time they eat in public (and) at all times in the department.”

“Losing half the department all at once has presented some challenges,” Marks said.

“We are focused on maintaining patrol coverage,” Marks told The Gazette Friday. “This has not been interrupted, Officers are working overtime shifts to get us through this week.”

Comments: (319) 398-8238; kat.russell@thegazette.com

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