PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Philadelphia Police institute a new face mask policy in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Police sources tell Eyewitness News the force’s 6,500 officers are being told to wear a mask or cloth covering to protect their coworkers and the public.
However, the administration has asked officers not to wear N95 masks, which are in short supply.
Officers were already wearing masks during a double shooting investigation Tuesday night in Kingsessing.
The department has issued each officer a cloth mask to use and a bag to store it.
In an internal memo, Commissioner Danielle Outlaw explained the new policy to officers, writing in part:
“The purpose of providing these masks is to help prevent spreading the COVID-19 virus among our coworkers. Many who have the virus have no signs or symptoms,” she wrote.
The directive comes days after Lt. James Walker passed away Sunday night from COVID-19 complications.
“We are unsure how and where Lt. Walker contracted the coronavirus, but we will continue to do all we can to protect the men and women serving on the front lines,” Mayor Kenney said in a news conference Monday.
Eyewitness News has learned at least 50 members of the police department have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
FOP Lodge #5 President John McNesby said he is working with the city to ensure officers are protected, but that it’s been difficult to obtain supplies.
“Masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, we’re getting that out as quick as we can, unfortunately, it’s tough to find,” he said. “So we’re buying everything that we can and I know the city is buying what they can and we’re trying to get it out as quick as we can.”
Commissioner Outlaw is expected to provide more information about officers wearing personal protective equipment sometime Wednesday.