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Austin first responders receive COVID-19 vaccine as police union says officers need more PPE

The Austin Police Association wants more N95 masks for officers as COVID-19 cases are reportedly on the rise in the department.

AUSTIN, Texas — On the same day dozens of Austin police officers, firefighters and medics got their first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, the Austin Police Association's president said he plans to ask for more N95 masks for officers.

Ken Casaday said the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the Austin Police Department concerns him. According to APD, there have been 119 sworn officers and 41 civilians who have tested positive for COVID-19 since March. 

Casaday said in the past three to four weeks, about two to three officers have contracted the virus per day.

"I think you're seeing a rapid increase in the general public. I think officers are now, some are getting it at work, possibly some of them are getting it at home from traveling. I think there are different reasons. But all I know right now is that the numbers are high, and we have some pretty sick individuals in our department right now," Casaday said.

That's why he wants N95 masks for officers.

Casaday also wants officers to reduce their interactions with the public for the near future.

"Minor collisions, barking dog calls out and enforcing speed limits. It's not going to hurt anybody to get out there for, or to not be out there, for three or four weeks," Casaday said.

He plans to ask Chief Brian Manley to make those changes once the chief recovers from COVID-19 himself. 

Dr. Mark Escott, Austin Public Health's interim medical director, hopes most first responders can be vaccinated soon. This week, 1,300 doses of the Moderna vaccine are available to that group.

"I anticipate that it's going to take another week to two weeks to get through all of our public safety folks. But, again, we're excited that that process has begun and look forward to protecting our first responders who dedicate themselves to protecting us," Dr. Escott said.

KVUE reached out to APD about Casaday's request for more N95 masks, but we have not heard back.

Casaday said officers were given one round of N95 masks in March.

Some other law enforcement agencies, like the Travis County Sheriff's Office (TCSO), provide their deputies with both disposable masks and N95 masks, according to TCSO Senior Public Information Officer Kristen Dark.

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