A recent series of COVID-19 exposures has put 32 Vancouver Police employees temporarily out of commission, but department representatives say this will have not affect on service levels or public safety.
VPD spokesman Sgt. Steve Addison confirmed Thursday that five department employees have recently tested positive for COVID-19, and another 27 are currently self-quarantining due to potential exposure.
All 32 affected VPD members are currently off work, Addison said, but the department is not providing a breakdown of how many are officers and how many are civilian employees.
“We’re an organization that has more than 1,300 sworn police officers, and we’ve had a robust plan in place since the start of the pandemic to deal with a situation like this,” Addison said. “It’s not going to have an impact on the service we provide to the city, it’s not going to have an impact on safety. … People can be assured their service won’t be interrupted, and we’ll still do all the things we always do to keep the city safe.”
Three of the confirmed cases were within one unit at the VPD’s Graveley Street building in east Vancouver, Addison said, which mostly houses investigative and support services. Two other VPD employees at different locations also tested positive in unrelated exposures, he added, although he could not confirm the locations of those two cases or the timeline of the exposures and positive tests.
Postmedia News reached out to the VPD on Thursday morning after receiving a tip from a source that there had been a cluster of COVID infections at the department’s Graveley offices.
Since the start of the pandemic, a total of 29 VPD employees have tested positive for COVID-19, including the five recent cases, Addison said.
“At this point the VPD has taken all the steps necessary to conduct the appropriate contact tracing and ensure the exposure is contained,” Addison said. “As the VPD provides an essential service, our officers and detectives are unable to work from home.”
“We’ve minimized and mitigated the risk to other VPD employees, but moreover to members of the public,” Addison said. “I think it’s fair to say risk to the public of exposure is minimal. … I’m not aware of any members of the public who have been directed to self-isolate as a result of this.”
Celso Pereira, a Vancouver Coastal Health spokesman, said the health authority has not declared the recent series of VPD cases as an outbreak.
“An outbreak is declared when a medical health officer identifies transmission within a closed setting and additional public health measures are required to limit the spread of COVID-19,” Pereira said. The exception to this is in long-term care homes, where an outbreak can be declared and a facility placed under precautions after a single case is identified, even if there is no evidence of transmission, according to the Coastal Health website .
In an emailed statement Thursday, Coastal Health said they could not confirm the numbers provided by VPD.
In August, Vancouver Police Union president Ralph Kaisers said two entire patrol teams of VPD members were off in quarantine and three had tested positive after responding to what he described on Twitter as an “out of control 100+ person party.”