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Austin police officers required to wear masks amid COVID-19, Chief Manley says

Austin Police Chief Brian Manley, in a video addressed to the department, said officers will be required to wear masks while on duty.

AUSTIN, Texas — After an update in the CDC recommendations, Austin police officers will be required to wear surgical masks while on duty, according to Chief Brian Manley. 

In a video addressed to APD, Manley said the masks would be given to APD officers and they would be required to wear them. Other personal protection equipment, such as glasses acquired by the APA, would be optional to wear, Manley said.

"There's been new direction from the CDC regarding being out in public and really the recommendation now that people wear face masks when they're out in the public," he said.

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The surgical masks are not N95-grade and Manley said to continue to maintain social distancing practices.

But because the masks are in short supply, officers will have to reuse them and take care of them.

Chief Manley also warned that the masks won't protect the officers from COVID-19.

"These masks are not necessarily meant to protect the wearer from catching the COVID-19 virus out in public, but more so to stop those who may be carrying it from spreading it if they cough, sneeze or otherwise do something that could spread the virus," Manley said.

Manley said APD had nearly a 10-day supply worth of the surgical masks for the department and were working to get more. The City was working to also get "cough masks," which would be given to officers as well, Manley said.

"Your leaders, your sergeants, lieutenants, commanders, the executive team, along with the APA ... everyone is working together to keep you and your family as safe as we can ... as we work together to get through this crisis," Manley said in the video.

Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday said, starting on April 6, the 900 patrol officers will each get two masks.

"Think we have enough for a week-and-a-half to two weeks," Casaday said.

After that, Casaday isn't sure where the department will get surgical masks from.

Casaday also said he has heard complaints from officers about the department not doing enough to protect them.

"Could the federal government, state government, our own police department done better if they wouldn't have ignored this, especially the warning signs that came earlier? Probably so, but it's not time to play the blame game," Casaday said.

This news comes as an officer and a civilian employee in APD continue to recover from COVID-19.

The good news, Casaday said, is that they never needed to be hospitalized.

Here are the guidelines given to APD officers regarding wearing masks on duty: 

Guidelines for Surgical Mask Donning and Placement:  

  • Place the surgical mask with the blue color outward.  The white interior surface is designed for moisture absorption and wearing it inside out will bypass the surface functions of each side of the mask. 
  • Ensure the mask conforms and fits properly to the face. 
  • Press the nosepiece and contour under the eyes. 
  • Proper placement and security should decrease the need and desire to touch the outer surface of the mask. 
  • If necessary, to adjust or reposition the mask, attempt to manipulate from the outer edges or ear loops rather than making contact with the frontal surface. 
  • Do not place the mask on your forehead, neck nor just unloop it on one side. If there is a need to doff the mask, remove it completely from the face to prevent inadvertent contamination to the head, neck or face. 

Guidelines for Surgical Mask Removal and Storage:

  • Change the surgical mask if it becomes wet from perspiration, exhalation, or material splattered during a face-to-face interaction, or by any other means. 
  • Indicators that a mask is too saturated to be effective are: increased respiratory effort needed to move air through the mask, inability to maintain adherence to the face, and tearing. 
  • Replace the mask if is torn, damaged, or no longer able to be effective as described above. 
  • Remove the mask by the ties or loops, tilting the head forward as the mask is removed and placed to the side. 
  • Removal of the mask should occur away from other individuals to prevent any inadvertent shedding of material. 
  • Remove the mask during hydration and eating.  Follow removal procedures as above. 
  • Care should be taken to ensure that individuals do not touch the outer surfaces of the mask during care, and that mask removal and replacement be done in a careful and deliberate manner. 
  • If the surgical mask does not need to be replaced (see conditions above), it may be reused on a limited basis.  
  • Surgical masks should be carefully folded so that the outer surface is held inward and against itself to reduce contact with the outer surface during storage. (Basically form a clam shell with the outside surface folded against itself and inserted into the package with the folded edge outward). 
  • The folded mask should be stored between uses in a clean sealable paper bag or breathable container. The use of a plastic bag or Ziploc-type bag should be avoided since they will retain moisture, not allowing the mask to dry leading to potential mold growth on the mask.  
  • If reusable, surgical masks should not be thrown away but stored for future use as described above. 
  • The longevity of each person’s mask and its ability to be reused may vary depending on the weather, type of enforcement activity, and the individual. 
  • NOTE: Supplement the surgical masks with simple eye protection to ensure the mucous membranes of the eye are offered some level of protection as a portal of entry. Additionally, the eye protection will add a reminder to not rub the eyes with potentially contaminated hands. Employees may use their own eyewear and a limited supply of goggles are currently available in the PCOs with more on order. 
  • Undertake frequent hand hygiene throughout the shift with particular attention during any manipulation of the mask surface, doffing the mask, after donning the mask during re-use, and after contact with environmental surfaces.


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