The COVID-19 virus has meant that area first responders must take extra steps to protect themselves and the public, while still performing jobs that keep them in close contact with other people.
Officers with the Winfield Police Department are also taking as many reports as possible over the phone instead of in person, and meeting outside if in-person contact is necessary, said Police Chief Robbie DeLong.
The police station lobby has also been set up so reports can be taken there, and officers have been issued masks, gloves and goggles to wear on calls if necessary.
DeLong said the department hasn’t had any complaints about the changes.
“It’s gone smoother than I expected. Most people seem to understand,” he said.
Chief Vince Warren of Winfield Fire/EMS said the department is following guidelines from the Kansas EMS Board. Winfield EMT’s and paramedics have always worn gloves on every call, but are now using extra personal protective equipment if needed because of both COVID-19 and the flu.
Face masks, glasses and gowns are now being worn for some calls is the situations requires them. In cases where a patient is showing signs of illness, a mask is put on them as well. Equipment is also decontaminated after every call is completed.
Warren said he hopes people understand the protective equipment is so first responders can protect themselves and the public, and not because they’re treating some people differently.
“We’re trying to flatten the curve and do what we can to protect the people we serve,” he said.
The Arkansas City Police Department has made temporary changes to its interactions with the public as well.
Early last week, the department announced that it encourages citizens to contact officers over the phone instead of in person. If officers need to respond in person, citizens are asked to meet them outside and maintain a distance of 6 to 8 feet. People who are not feeling well or have a fever are asked to tell the dispatcher so they can inform the responding officer.
Anyone who has close contact with an officer should expect them to be wearing protective equipment such as gloves and masks. The ACPD is temporarily suspending station tours, ride-alongs, community outreach programs and outside meetings.
Phone calls to the Arkansas City Fire/EMS Department and the Cowley County Sheriff’s Office were not returned before press time.