First responders and necessary employees have maintained their work throughout the closures mandated to limit the spread of COVID-19, though they have had to adapt in order to help protect themselves and the public.
Deputies at the Lake County Sheriff’s Office have had to adjust to the changes, though their day-to-day duties have remained largely the same, Sheriff Amy Reyes said.
Deputies are still responding to calls, but the sheriff’s office reduced in-office staff by 50% prior to the March 22 order to do so, even though the order exempts essential businesses – a classification that includes law enforcement, Reyes said.
The sheriff’s office has limited walk-in access to essential personnel, and have required all employees who can do so to work remotely, Reyes said.
Deputies’ normal functions have not been disrupted much, as they still come in to the office and go out on calls, but the nature of calls has shifted some as a result of the shelter-in-place order, closures and other impacts of COVID-19, she said.
The sheriff’s office has seen an increase in calls related to domestic violence and housemate disputes since the closures and directives for self-quarantine went into place, Reyes said.
In addition to an increase in domestic calls, the sheriff’s office has had to increase their presence at Safeway since the COVID-19 pandemic closures went into place, she said.
While the sheriff’s office hasn’t seen an increase in shoplifting or theft, they have been called several times to aide staff at the store in situations where shoppers have disrespected limitations put in place by the store, like senior and vulnerable community member shopping hours, and become aggressive when asked to leave, Reyes said.
The statewide executive order issued by Governor Jared Polis mandating that Colorado residents stay quarantined if not conducting essential business could be enforced by police and sheriff’s deputies, though the Lake County Sheriff’s Office does not plan to issue citations or arrest people on the order unless it becomes a clear and potentially dangerous violation of standing orders, such as large gatherings of people, Reyes said.
According to a statement issued by the office of the District Attorney, jails in the Fifth Judicial District have reduced their inmate populations by 43% between March 1 and March 25.
Lake County has followed this trend in reduction through a variety of measures, such as issuing felony summons in lieu of making arrests, Reyes said.
Most of the measures being taken by staff to limit the spread and risk of contracting COVID-19 are the same as the general public, such as regular hand washing and, when possible, social distancing, she said.
The Leadville Police Department has taken similar measures, as well as ensuring each staff member has their own work space. Additionally, each officer was provided with protective masks by Saint Vincent Hospital, Saige Bertolas, chief of the Leadville Police Department, said.
While arrests are down, Bertolas has asked LPD officers to maintain a persistent and visible presence in the community, she said.
Bertolas anticipates an increase in calls inside city limits as the shelter-in-place order continues, but the department is currently seeing a decrease in calls as a result of less public activity, she said.
As for emergency medical responders, staff going out on 911 calls are all wearing face masks and gloves as personal protective equipment to avoid contracting and to limit the spread of COVID-19, Karen Onderdonk, public information officer for Saint Vincent Hospital, said in an email.
In addition, the minimum number of people needed on a call are responding.
Both the sheriff’s office and police department have stopped responding to medical calls unless there is a clear need for law enforcement on site.
The extra precautions being taken by the public have not significantly changed daily operations for medical first responders, who are prepared for encountering infectious diseases as a regular part of their work, Onderdonk said.
Similar to the Leadville Police Department, the volume of calls to the Saint Vincent ambulance service has decreased, potentially as a result of less activity in the community, she said.