In today’s COVID-19 Report, we look at several states in which COVID infections rose significantly in July.


Key Takeaways

Mandatory mask orders are becoming more common. As with other public health orders, police do not want to be charged with enforcing mask requirements.

Agencies are conducting antibody testing to understand the prevalence of past exposure to COVID-19 among their officers. Either on their own or in partnership with a local university, police departments are testing their officers for antibodies to try to determine how many of their officers may have already been exposed to COVID-19, even if they did not exhibit symptoms. But antibody tests are subject to false positives and false negatives, and interpretation of the results can be complicated.

Having dedicated medical staff on the police department has proven valuable. Medical directors and industrial hygienists can provide valuable guidance and reassurance to police personnel.

Police officials are concerned about a number of upcoming events. These include:

  • Reopening schools
  • Reopening colleges and universities
  • College and professional sporting events that are open to fans.



Omaha, NE Police Chief Todd Schmaderer:

We’ll Have a Mandatory Mask Order Starting August 3 

Our county health department recently issued an order that masks are mandatory in the city. It will go into effect August 3rd. If you don’t have a mask on, with a few exceptions, you will be breaking the law. The Omaha Police Department will be tasked with enforcing that. We’re analyzing the dynamics of how we want to pursue that. Do we want to come from a training angle, an enforcement angle, or a combination of both? Addressing that is going to be a challenge for the Omaha Police Department, because anytime you have a police department addressing a public health matter, it’s going to be problematic.

The city of Omaha is largely open right now. We went through a period when we shut down, and then, like everyone else, we tried to open back up. Now we’re trying to ease our way back down.

Like in every city, the debate right now is how schools are going to reopen.

We’ve had about 25 officers test positive, so we have concerns about the preservation of our workforce and how we continue policing services.

Our Medical Director has helped:  We hired a medical director when this first started, to help us piece through everything. Our overriding objective was to preserve our workforce while providing the necessary policing services. We viewed this as an opportunity to show our officers that we understood what was going on and had their back. The medical director was met with a lot of good spirit.

We implemented a call center to cut down the contacts we would have to have with the public. The call center handles lower-level report calls, and it has been a tremendous success. We’ll probably keep it in place even after the pandemic.

Antibody tests:  We’ve also done antibody testing of our officers. I realize there are some hits and misses with regards to what the antibody testing really shows us. But morale-wise, it has been received very well by the officers. For some reason, that was a huge morale boost.

If the test shows they have the presence of the antibody, they’ll have the opportunity to meet with the medical director, who will explain what it means and the limitations of antibody testing. 



 Columbus, OH Police Chief Tom Quinlan:

We’re Doing a Study with Ohio State University to COVID-Test Every Officer

Our testing positivity rate among officers is staying at the same 13% rate as the city and the state as a whole, so we’re not seeing anything out of the ordinary for our officers compared to the general population.

We didn’t have our first case in the Division of Police until March 28. We went the next two months with a total of 12 cases in the Division. Of those, 10 were confirmed to be non-work exposures – either travel or a family member. Since May 28, we’ve had 26 additional cases, and the majority of those were work-related exposures, particularly officers who were working in the protest areas.

We are working on a longitudinal antibody testing study with Ohio State University. We applied for a grant to test every officer and continue periodic testing.

We’ve had an industrial hygienist on staff for years, and she has been doing an excellent job overseeing contact tracing, cleaning, messaging, and decisions about quarantining and health-care monitoring.

As of right now, Ohio State University is planning to teach some classes online, with classes that do meet in-person moving to larger rooms. For football, they’re talking about only allowing 10,000 people into their 100,000-seat stadium.



Indianapolis Metropolitan Assistant Police Chief Chris Bailey:

Our Officer Infections Now Are Mostly Social, Not Police-Related

Like others, we peaked in the March/April timeframe, and then, as we shut down, our numbers declined. Like everyone else, we saw a spike over the last couple weeks that prevented our mayor and governor from taking us to the next phase of our reopening plan. We then took a little step back as our numbers continued to rise, although they’re now down over the last few days.

The mayor walked back the bar opening, because we were seeing a spike in our younger population. We have three pretty major entertainment zones. The city had made arrangements to close the streets down in front of those areas when they started opening the restaurants, in order to allow people to be outside and not crammed into a small club. But that backfired on us a bit from a law enforcement perspective, because they became street parties and people were bringing their own alcohol and entertainment.

We implemented a mask order in our city in mid-July.

The Police Department has had 53 positives since the beginning of the pandemic. 49 of them have returned to work. We have seen an increase in the number of people we are quarantining and having tested. Most of these potential infections are coming as people are starting to live their lives again. Most are coming from social events, like weddings and social gatherings, and not from law enforcement duties.

The Indianapolis 500 is early next month, and the full capacity of that facility is over 300,000 people. They’re going to limit it to approximately 90,000 people. There will be a mask requirement, and I believe they will be taking temperatures.

The Colts are going to limit their stadium capacity to 25%. Our minor-league soccer team is already playing in the Colts’ stadium with limited fans.

We have several universities in Indianapolis. Anytime you have young people coming together, that’s going to be a concern. I know most universities are trying to restrict parties, but I’m concerned that they’ll find a way to get together. It’s something we have to pay attention to here.


The PERF Daily COVID-19 Report is part of the Critical Issues in Policing project, supported by the Motorola Solutions Foundation.


PERF also is grateful to the Howard G. Buffett Foundation for supporting PERF’s COVID-19 work.