DULUTH — The Duluth Police Department has 29 members in quarantine due to suspected exposures to the COVID-19 virus, according to Chief Mike Tusken, who is also self-isolating as a precaution.
He noted that most employees who undergo quarantine never test positive for the virus. Since mid-October, the police department has had 14 confirmed COVID-19 cases. The Duluth Police Department employs 157 sworn officers, 26 civilians, seven parking enforcers and 18 seasonal/part-time staff.
"The increase of COVID-19 cases in our city and state is posing a challenge to community safety," said Tusken in a statement Friday afternoon, Nov. 6. "We are challenged in the same way many employers are with how to best have their employees do their work while keeping them safe."
While the current situation complicates police operations, Tusken said the department's "first priority is the health and safety of our staff and the community."
Tusken noted that the very nature of the police department's work puts staff at risk. But he offered assurances, saying: "No matter the circumstances, the DPD is still well-positioned to continue safely serving the city of Duluth. Emergency 911 calls and having the staffing to respond is our priority. "
He pointed out that the police department has employed a number of strategies and practices to mitigate community spread both within the force and the community at large. Tusken said that if virus exposure is suspected, the police department uses contact tracing and follows best practices recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Minnesota Department of Health to quarantine staff. Police staff have ready access to rapid-testing services.
"The DPD will continue to do our due diligence to stop the spread of COVID-19 while we serve the city of Duluth," Tusken said. "We ask for your help in keeping yourself and everyone safe by adhering to state of Minnesota Department of Health guidelines and wear a mask, maintain social distancing, wash your hands, and stay home if you are sick."
A Forum News Service request for information on the number of police department employees exposed to and/or infected by the coronavirus Thursday, Nov. 5, was denied.
"We respect our employees' right to privacy and all disclosures are voluntary. Therefore, we will not disclose the number of positive cases," the department's public information officer, Ingrid Hornibrook, said.