CHICAGO (CBS) — A total of 76 Chicago Police officers and staff have now tested positive for coronavirus, the department said in a memo Thursday.
Of the infected staff, 74 are sworn officers while two are civilian staff.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Interim Police Supt. Charlie Beck on Thursday also announced the first death of a Chicago Police officer from the coronavirus.
Chicago Police Officer Marco DiFranco, a 21-year veteran of the force, died after testing positive for COVID-19 last week. DiFranco, 50, was hospitalized over the weekend, and died overnight with his family nearby.
“Unfortunately, the severity of the virus became overwhelming, and he passed away with his family by his side. This searing loss is yet another reminder of the lethal danger of COVID-19, and that danger that it poses to our city, and that the numbers that we hear every day are more than just statistics. They represent our neighbors, our grandparents, children, colleagues, and friends,” Lightfoot said.
Beck said DiFranco is survived by a wife, two children — ages 7 and 10 — and a brother who is also a narcotics officer. The officer’s wife, children, and brother have been quarantined, and the facility where DiFranco worked has been cleaned and sanitized.
“His sacrifice underscores the threats that are faced by public safety employees who are not, by nature of their profession, allowed to shelter in place, shelter at home. We have always been more at risk for violence because of our profession, and now I think we are more at risk of virus because of our profession,” Beck said.
Officials declined to say if the officer had any underlying conditions that might have contributed to his death, citing the family’s privacy, and the fact an autopsy has not yet been conducted.
Lightfoot said DiFranco worked in the narcotics section at CPD, and “was held in high esteem by all who work with him.”
The superintendent said, due to the virus outbreak, as many officers as possible are working alone, but he noted parts of the city have too much violence for it to be safe to run one-officer cars exclusively. However, due to the pandemic, when officers are paired up, they are working with the same partner as often as possible to minimize the chances of spreading of the virus.
On Friday, the CPD said it was shifting schedules at Public Safety Headquarters and the Bureau of Internal Affairs in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Beginning Monday, sworn personnel assigned to headquarters, the Force Review Division, and the Bureau of Internal Affairs began working days, afternoons and midnights to reduce contact. Beginning Thursday they will also begin a 4-2 schedule, meaning four days on and two days off.