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The National Policing Institute (NPI) is committed to providing resources to law enforcement agencies during the COVID-19 pandemic. NPI has assembled relevant and trusted resources for law enforcement (listed below) that have been prepared by a variety of associations and organizations that may be helpful as your agency plans, prepares, and responds. Please note that this is a continually evolving event and information on this page may be updated frequently.
The National Policing Institute (NPI) is currently providing and developing these resources from limited internal resources. If you would like to help support NPI’s efforts to provide vital resources to law enforcement agencies and first responders during this crisis, please visit: www.policinginstitute.org/donate.
COVID-19: Frequently Asked Questions by Law Enforcement
What chemicals should be used to disinfect surfaces, objects, and gear?
The CDC has published guidance on how to clean and disinfect surfaces, available at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/disinfecting-building-facility.html.
For a searchable list of which disinfectants are approved for use against SARS-CoV-2, visit: https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2.
Does soap need to be antibacterial to be effective against SARS-CoV-2?
How do officers decontaminate their clothing?
The CDC has published guidance for law enforcement here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/guidance-law-enforcement.html.
Are there alternatives for agencies unable to obtain traditional cleaning supplies?
In addition to the list of disinfectants that have been approved for use against SARS-CoV-2 by the FDA (available here: https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2), the CDC has provided alternative instructions for diluted bleach solutions here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/disinfecting-building-facility.html.
Does the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule allow a covered entity to share the name or other identifying information of an individual who has been infected with, or exposed to, the virus SARS-CoV-2 or the disease caused by the virus, COVID-19, with law enforcement, corrections personnel, or other first responders without an individual’s authorization?
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has provided guidance pertaining to HIPAA protections amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. See: https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/special-topics/hipaa-covid19/index.html.
For specific guidance on the disclosure of protected health information (PHI) to law enforcement, see: https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/covid-19-hipaa-and-first-responders-508.pdf.
How should jails and detention facilities handle a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 to protect staff, other inmates, or individuals with imminent release?
The CDC has provided specific guidance for correctional and detention facilities here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/correction-detention/guidance-correctional-detention.html.
If law enforcement takes a person into custody who exhibits symptoms of COVID-19, where should they take the person for intake processing (such as jail, a hospital, or some other facility)?
The CDC has provided specific guidance on this question here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/law-enforcement-agencies-faq.html.
Should changes be made with regards to field training programs, public access to government buildings, and officers’ use of common areas like break rooms and gyms?
To the greatest extent possible, agencies should follow the CDC’s guidelines for maintaining healthy business operations and protecting personnel, found here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/guidance-business-response.html.
What are the PPE recommendations for law enforcement officers?
The CDC has listed the minimum recommended personal protective equipment (PPE) law enforcement officers should wear when contacting individuals with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. The recommendations are available at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/guidance-law-enforcement.html.
If law enforcement agencies cannot obtain the recommended PPE for their officers, are there alternatives available?
The CDC has provided guidance on how to optimize the supply of PPE, including recommended courses of action and alternatives if supplies are extremely limited and/or depleted. Please see: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/ppe-strategy/index.html.
How important is proper fit testing for the use of N95 respirators?
Fit testing is required to ensure the user is receiving the expected level of protection from the respirator. See: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/npptl/hospresptoolkit/fittesting.html.
How does an agency ensure it is purchasing only NIOSH-approved respirators?
See https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/npptl/topics/respirators/disp_part/default.html for a searchable list of NIOSH-approved respirators.
See also https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/npptl/usernotices/counterfeitResp.html for CDC alerts on counterfeit respirators.
What are some strategies law enforcement can use to conserve PPE?
The CDC has provided guidance on how to conserve the supply of PPE, including guidance on the extended use and/or re-use of equipment: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/ppe-strategy/index.html.
How large of a supply of PPE does an agency require, or how long will the agency’s existing supply last?
To assist agencies in determining how much PPE they will need or how long their existing supply will last, the CDC has provided a PPE burn rate calculator, available here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/ppe-strategy/burn-calculator.html.
What should law enforcement agencies do if they are having trouble acquiring new PPE?
According to the CDC during a March 19, 2020, briefing for law enforcement (available below in the National Policing Institute Resources), the federal government (not CDC) operates the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS). Resources from the SNS, including PPE, are typically released to the states for the states to distribute. Accordingly, if agencies cannot acquire PPE through regular channels, agencies should contact their local and state public health departments and emergency preparedness partners and ask about the possibility of receiving an allocation of PPE from their state. See: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/law-enforcement-agencies-faq.html.
See also FEMA’s Eligible Emergency Protective Measures announcement: https://www.fema.gov/news-release/2020/03/19/coronavirus-covid-19-pandemic-eligible-emergency-protective-measures. State, territorial, tribal, and local government entities and certain private non-profit organizations are eligible to apply for assistance through FEMA’s Public Assistance Program. Under the COVID-19 Emergency Declaration, FEMA may provide assistance for emergency protective measures, including supplies.
What are the common symptoms associated with COVID-19?
The CDC has listed the common symptoms of COVID-19 here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html.
For definitions of symptoms, see: https://www.cdc.gov/quarantine/air/reporting-deaths-illness/definitions-symptoms-reportable-illnesses.html.
Can someone spread the virus without showing symptoms?
Where can an agency access up-to-date information on the virus?
The CDC provides regular updates on COVID-19, including the agency’s response and latest recommendations, available here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/summary.html.
When can an officer return to work after exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 and/or testing positive for COVID-19?
The CDC has provided guidance on when individuals can discontinue home isolation: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/disposition-in-home-patients.html.
Note, in critical staffing shortages, consider the CDC guidance for mitigating staff shortages in healthcare settings, available here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/mitigating-staff-shortages.html.
How should agencies screen their officers when they report to work?
The CDC provided interim guidance for critical infrastructure workers, including a recommendation on pre-screening, available here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/critical-workers/implementing-safety-practices.html.
For an example of screening protocols, see: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/correction-detention/guidance-correctional-detention.html#verbal-screening.
If an officer exhibits a symptom during screening, how long before the officer can return to work?
The CDC has provided guidance on when individuals can discontinue home isolation after exhibiting symptoms: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/steps-when-sick.html.
In critical staffing shortages, consider the CDC guidance for mitigating staff shortages in healthcare settings: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/mitigating-staff-shortages.html.
What is the turnaround time for COVID-19 testing?
Turnaround time will vary by jurisdiction based on the capacity of local and state laboratories doing the testing. See https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/testing.html.
How does an officer get tested?
The CDC has provided guidance on testing for COVID-19, including how to get tested, available here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/testing.html.
The CDC has also provided guidance as to who should be prioritized with respect to testing while testing capacity remains limited: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/hcp/clinical-criteria.html.
How is the virus, SARS-CoV-2, that causes COVID-19 transmitted?
See https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/how-covid-spreads.html for a description of how the virus is transmitted.
Is it possible for someone to spread the SARS-CoV-2 virus before they are symptomatic?
See https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/how-covid-spreads.html for information about how the virus is spread.
Can the SARS-CoV-2 virus remain on surfaces, and if so, for how long?
See the following resources for information on how long the virus can remain on surfaces:
- National Institutes of Health: https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/new-coronavirus-stable-hours-surfaces.
- Johns Hopkins University: https://hub.jhu.edu/2020/03/20/sars-cov-2-survive-on-surfaces/.
- New England Journal of Medicine: https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMc2004973.
What is considered an “exposure” to COVID-19?
The CDC included some information on what can be considered an exposure in its interim guidance for critical infrastructure workers, found here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/critical-workers/implementing-safety-practices.html.
The CDC has also provided guidance on exposure risk categories in a healthcare setting, some of which may be applicable to law enforcement: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/guidance-risk-assesment-hcp.html.
If an officer is exposed to a person with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, can they continue working, or should they be isolated?
The CDC has provided interim guidance on critical infrastructure workers (to include law enforcement) who may have had exposure to a person with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. You can access that guidance here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/critical-workers/implementing-safety-practices.html.
Is there any specific guidance for protecting police canines from COVID-19 exposure?
The CDC has provided specific guidance on this issue, available here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/law-enforcement-agencies-faq.html.
What precautions should officers take to avoid exposing their families, even if the officers are asymptomatic?
The CDC has published multiple resource pages that address precautions individuals can take in their households to avoid spreading the SARS-CoV-2 virus. See:
Should special precautions be taken when conducting death investigations?
The CDC has published guidance on precautions during death investigations, available here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/law-enforcement-agencies-faq.html.
The CDC has also published interim guidance for funeral home workers handling decedents who had COVID-19, and some of this guidance may be applicable to law enforcement: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html#COVID-19-and-Funerals.
Is Ibuprofen safe to take for people who may have COVID-19?
Do vaccines against pneumonia help protect against the new coronavirus?
National Policing Institute Resources
- PowerPoint Presentation – COVID-19 Briefing for Law Enforcement: March 19, 2020
- COVID-19 Briefing for Law Enforcement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), March 19, 2020:
CDC Guidance for Law Enforcement, Corrections
- FAQs for Law Enforcement Agencies and Personnel
- What Law Enforcement Personnel Need to Know About Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
- Strategies for Optimizing PPE Supply
- Interim Guidance on Management of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Correctional and Detention Facilities
- Resources for Correctional and Detention Facilities
Overview of COVID-19 for Fire/EMS Agencies and PSAPs
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Guidance
PPE Selection and Infection Control Resources
- Guide to Selecting, Donning, and Doffing PPE for Coronavirus (NETEC)
- List of NIOSH-Approved Respirators (NIOSH)
- Counterfeit Respirators & Misrepresentation of NIOSH-Approval (NIOSH)
- Strategies for Optimizing the Supply of N95 Respirators (CDC)
- Guidance for Risk Assessment of Healthcare Personnel with Potential Exposure to COVID-19 Patients (CDC)
- Healthcare Supply of Personal Protective Equipment (CDC)
- Infection Control for Suspected COVID-19 Patients (WHO)
- List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 (EPA)
Research Tools and Databases
Federal Assistance Programs & Resources
- FEMA COVID-19 Eligible Emergency Proactive Measures
- U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Assistance FY 2020 Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding Program
- COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit for the Law Enforcement Community (DOJ Bureau of Justice Assistance VALOR Officer Safety and Wellness Program)