Detroit — In the latest blow to the Detroit Police Department, already reeling with nearly 500 officers quarantined, Chief James Craig announced Friday he tested positive for COVID-19 after feeling “feverish.”
Craig, who was quarantined in his Detroit home Friday, designated Assistant Chief James White, the longest-tenured assistant chief, to act in his place while he seeks treatment.
“I feel all right,” Craig told The Detroit News. “I have a cough … (and am feeling) a little feverish, but I’m hanging in there.”
Craig, 63, said he hasn’t been feeling well for the past week or so, but he attributed it to allergies he gets every spring.
“I was feeling the usual discomfort from that: headaches, the sniffles, which is consistent with the allergies I suffer,” he said. “But it persisted, and I went and got tested (Thursday). It came back (Friday) morning.”
Mayor Mike Duggan broke the news that Craig had contracted the virus during the mayor’s daily COVID-19 update.
“It’s something that we knew was a possibility,” Duggan said. “He is very fit and mild in symptoms and is very much in charge of running this department. But he’s not going to be back on site until he fully recovers.”
According to Duggan, Craig chose White to take his place because White had been in quarantine and tested negative. White has a “deep understanding of the risks officers are facing each day,” the mayor said.
White said he is assuming the day-to-day operations, but Craig is still “locked in,” checking in hourly and driving the department.
“The chief is very fit, focused on nutrition and exercise, and we hope that will help his recovery,” White said.
Duggan said as the department deals with the latest news, there’s still work to be done.
“We’re going to continue to ramp up the care for our police and fire departments,” he said. “This is a major focus of our work right now.”
As of Friday, 39 Detroit police officers tested positive for COVID-19, 468 officers are on quarantine, 35 results are in the process of returning and 119 are awaiting testing, Duggan said.
A strict return-to-work plan is being implemented for the police department and the city’s fire department. With the new process, workers will be tested for fever before starting every shift, no more than two members may be in an elevator at any time, hugging is prohibited, and officials will distribute masks in an effort to keep members safe.
Many of the quarantined workers are anxious to get back to work, White said.
“We’ve already taken steps to redeploy personnel,” White said. “I, myself, recently returned to work from being quarantined. The process worked for me. After my test results returned, I was able to return to work, and I’m committed to ensuring that every member of this department is safe.”
Craig said he’ll be monitoring the department’s activities from home.
“I’ll still be plugged in,” he said.
Duggan, meanwhile, said he has not been tested because he doesn’t have symptoms and said he has tried to stay six feet away from everyone, including Craig.
The mayor said Detroit’s police force is not unique in its plight.
“In the New York Police Department, they’ve got well over 300 officers who have tested positive for COVID-19, and three of their highest police officials have also tested positive,” Duggan said.
“This is the world that we live in now. The focus of medical directors with first responders is to protect them from being infected from the citizens they interact with.”
Lisa Carter, chairwoman of the Detroit Board of Police Commissioner — whose husband, State Rep. Tyrone Carter, D-Detroit on Thursday became the first Michigan lawmaker to contract the virus — said she was “saddened by the news of Chief Craig’s diagnosis.”
“Assistant Chief James White is a capable and well respected leader of the DPD,” Carter said. “His assignment to lead the day-to-day operations of the department provides for a smooth transition.”
Detroit police commissioner Willie Burton agreed the department is in capable hands with White, who has been directing the department’s COVID-19 response strategy, temporarily at the helm.
“DPD has many highly trained assistant chiefs and deputy chiefs who are capable of getting the job done,” Burton said. “AC White has many years of experience and will be able to step in for the chief in this crisis.”
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