A COVID-19 outbreak has infected every member of a southwest Illinois police department, the town’s mayor said.
All three cops and the chief of police in Venice, a town of 2,100 outside St. Louis, have contracted the bug, forcing the department to shut down as they complete mandatory 10-day quarantines, Mayor Tyrone Echols told the Belleville News-Democrat Thursday.
“I think it’s everybody except for possibly two dispatchers,” Echols said of the department’s impacted employees, including Police Chief Theo Adams.
“He sounded pretty rough,” Echols said of the town’s top cop.
Venice will be patrolled by Illinois State Police and other law enforcement agencies throughout Madison County until its officers return to duty.
“I want everyone to know we are covered,” Echols told the newspaper, adding that the department had at least eight cops at one point, but they “come and go” in search of better pay, leaving the agency short-staffed amid the ongoing pandemic.
The officers and Adams started getting sick late last week, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
“It’s out there,” Echols said of the virus in the small community. “It’s a shame there are people talking against masks and the vaccine.”
Another nearby law enforcement agency, St. Louis County police, is also dealing with a virus outbreak within its ranks. Department officials said Thursday that 15 employees in two precincts had tested positive for COVID-19 since Aug. 2, the Post-Dispatch reported.
Echols, meanwhile, has issued an executive order mandating that all city employees be vaccinated, as well as masks for any City Hall visitors.
“This pandemic is nothing to play with,” Echols told the Belleville News-Democrat.
Echols said Wednesday that the diagnosed officers were about a week away from returning to duty, KMOV reported.
“We think about another eight days before these guys can come off quarantine and of course, I’ve been a little slow getting information because my chief even has COVID-19 and he’s sounding terrible,” Echols told the station.
None of the officers were seriously ill, KTVI reported.
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