Protesters feel at risk by NYPD officers not wearing masks


NYPD officers have been photographed not wearing face masks, worn to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus. Some protesters said they see it as a blatant disregard for the safety and well being of the public.The NYPD has been dismissive of criticism on the issue. The department has been impacted by the coronavirus. As of May 24, at least 43 members of the NYPD had died from the virus.Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

While covered head to toe in protective equipment, New York City officers appear to be neglecting one necessary item of protective gear: masks. And protesters feel it’s a snub to their safety in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.According to TIME, officers have been seen not donning the protective face coverings in the midst of widespread protests despite the city still seeing new cases rise. —Andrea Ritchie (@dreanyc123) May 29, 2020 New York state was also the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the US. Out of the country’s over 2 million infections, more than 385,000 were in the state, of which 213,000 were in New York City alone. The city also saw close to 22,000 of the state’s 30,000 deaths. Hospitalizations are also on the rise.Ibrahima Mbaye told Insider he was arrested while protesting in New York City. He described being detained and held in close quarters with other people, who were not given masks nor hand sanitizer, nor who were allowed to properly socially distance. Mbaye said while detained, he was put into a holding cell that more and more people were being thrown into, some of whom had said they were either exposed to or had coronavirus. 

He said calls for proper safety measures by detainees fell on deaf ears. “There were people who had pretty explicitly said that they were positive for coronavirus and then none of them listened to us. They could hear us, we knew they could hear us. They would laugh at us, scoff at us,” he said. In his circumstance, both detainees and officers were not wearing masks. “We have no masks, and you police officers have no masks on, and we do not want to get infected,” Mbaye said. 

There’s a concern that officers who are infected could pass the virus on to those in the public without even knowing. The face masks limit how far particles can spread and reduce the risk of transmission. “If police officers, who are infected with the virus, are shouting and yelling within 6 feet of other people, they are emanating a lot of particles out of their mouth because they are speaking very forcefully,” Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center For Health Security told TIME. “That would facilitate asymptomatic transmission.”According to The New York Times, the New York Police Department has an official policy that officers wear masks when interacting with the public. “If they’re interacting with the public, they’re obligated to wear masks,” NYPD Assistant Deputy Commissioner of Legal Matters Oleg Chernyavsky said at a virtual May 22 public safety committee hearing. “We follow the direction from the Department of Health.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s also ordered all residents to wear face coverings while in public in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus.”Police officers should be wearing masks,” Cuomo said during a news conference on Monday, according to The Times. However, despite that, the NYPD still excused the lack of masks. “Perhaps it was the heat,” Sgt. Jessica McRorie ,of the department’s press office, said in a statement to The Times. “Perhaps it was the 15 hour tours, wearing bullet resistant vests in the sun. Perhaps it was the helmets. With everything New York City has been through in the past two weeks and everything we are working toward together, we can put our energy to a better use.”

But protesters have looked at officers’ refusal to wear masks as a message that they’re either above the rules that everyone else must follow or apathy for the public well-being, both messages seemingly at odds with their jobs to serve and protect. “It’s symbolic,” Cynthia Godsoe told TIME. “They are blatantly snubbing us.”A Twitter account was made to trace NYPD officers who were seen in public without a mask. In some instances, videographers and photographers would approach the police and take note of their names and badge numbers, or even ask why they’re not wearing a mask. —NYPD Contact Tracing (@nypdmaskwatch) June 7, 2020 According to The Times, one officer who was confronted by a young man and recorded on the @nypdmaskwatch account on Saturday said: “We’ve got more important things to deal with.”

—NYPD Contact Tracing (@nypdmaskwatch) June 12, 2020″It’s unsafe and disrespectful to the public,” Godsoe told TIME. “This is a rule we all have to follow, and they’re sending a terrible message.”Data from across the country, including in New York City, have shown that communities of color specifically Black and Hispanic populations are disproportionately affected by the coronavirus. A report published in May by researchers at amfAR, a non-profit focused on AIDS research, “found that US counties in which at least 13% of the population is Black account for 58% of COVID-19 deaths and 52% of cases nationwide,” Business Insider previously reported. “Crisis can exacerbate existing inequalities, which is demonstrated in higher rates of hospitalization and death among certain populations in many countries,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, said in a press briefing on Wednesday.

In New York City, preliminary data showed that the neighborhoods most impacted by coronavirus were Latinx communities, NPR reported. While those in the Latinx community only make up around 29% of the city’s populations, they accounted for about 34% of those who died from the virus, as of April.Coronavirus can be spread in closed spaces, especially jails. According to The Legal Aid Society, 1,408 Department of Corrections employees tested positive for the virus as of June 5, an almost 13% infection rate, compared to a 2.5% infection rate in NYC. “Based on this analysis, New York City jails have become the epicenter of COVID-19. It is imperative that Albany, City Hall, our local District Attorneys and the NYPD take swift and bold action to mitigate the spread of this deadly virus,” Tina Luongo, Attorney-in-Charge of the Criminal Defense Practice at The Legal Aid Society said on their website. 

According to TIME, City Councilman Donovan Richards, who is the head of the council’s public safety committee, said it was hypocritical for officers not to be wearing masks when they were the ones enforcing social distancing before the lockdown was lifted. “There should be no one above the law, and this is why things have bubbled up,” he says. “The hypocrisy, it plays right into why this powder keg has ignited.”And officers — deemed essential workers during the coronavirus pandemic — are not immune from contracting the virus. As of May 23, at least 43 members of the NYPD had died from the virus, and some officers have been seen with black memorial bands on their badges to mourn the losses.LoadingSomething is loading.



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