The United States suddenly finds itself as the third worst-hit country in the world by COVID-19. With over 46,000 confirmed cases and nearly 600 casualties, the US is being sucked deeper into the pandemic's vortex and the first responders across several cities are turning into cases themselves.
In a clip made available by ABC News, John Carli, Chief, Vacaville Police Department, California, can be heard appealing to White House officials to help in the testing of the first responders."Stop testing NBA players, and start testing our first responders," he said.
The appeal was made on Friday during a call that was organized by the International Association of Chiefs of Police with White House and Homeland Security officials.
"Stop testing NBA players"
In the clip the chief narrates the difficulty he is facing to have the first responders tested. Stressing on how isolating staff hampers the availability of personnel, he said: "Because if we are quarantining[our] people for 14 days — and everyone has a different opinion on how long you can be symptomatic and then symptom-free before you can come back — we are gonna lose our first responders."
Hinting at the lack of support at the local level, he went on to emphasise that support must come from the national level. "Someone needs to make a decision at the very high level so that we are not having to have these decisions made through back channels," said Carli.
Forced to rely on back channels
The chief's reference to NBA players pointed towards the availability of testing kits for professional basketballers associated with one of the richest sporting leagues in the world but not personnel on the frontlines of the outbreak.
Rudy Gobert from Utah Jazz tested positive for the disease on March 12 and became the first NBA player to be diagnosed so. This led to disruption on an unprecedented scale within the league. According to The Wall Street Journal, post the revelation of Gobart's infection status, screening was carried out by eight teams, which led to the identification of 13 more cases among players and other personnel.
An acute shortage of personnel
Carli's plea comes at a time when several police departments and other law enforcement agencies across the US have reported a marked reduction in active personnel owing to many of them either being quarantined or testing positive for COVID-19.
On March 21, the LAPD reported three new cases within its force, bringing the total number of infected staff to nine. "All of these individuals are now quarantined at home and recovering," said a spokesperson for the LAPD in a statement on Monday.
However, this seems minuscule compared to the number of infections reported among the New York Police Department (NYPD) workforce. On Sunday NYPD commissioner Dermot Shea announced that 98 staff members within the force had tested positive for COVID-19. Of them, 70 were uniformed officers and 28 civilian members. "In terms of the testing, the numbers are going up because the testing in the entire city is going up. So that is not unexpected," he said, according to the Anadolu Agency.
US now the third worst-hit country in the world
With a massive number of cases reported within just a week, the US now stands third in the list of most number of infections. As of now, 46,450 confirmed cases and 593 cases have been reported with the number of cases reported daily only growing. The maximum number of deaths have been reported in New York City which stands at 125.
Also, the city roughly accounts for 5 per cent of the total number of cases reported across the world, thereby making it an epicenter. The city's hospitals are plagued by shortage of ventilators, masks and other vital supplies. Calling on US President Donald Trumps to hand over the manufacture and distribution of these items to the US Military, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio told NBC: "I can't be blunt enough. If the president doesn't act, people will die who could have lived otherwise."