AUSTIN, Texas — Chief Joseph Chacon said the Austin Police Department is planning to boost staffing in the downtown area for the New Year's holiday weekend, but APD is also keeping an eye on the COVID-19 cases among officers.
"I'd be foolish to say that I'm not worried about COVID," Chacon said. "And, you know, we've got to put those contingencies in place and be ready. And so, as the command staff is having those discussions now to make sure that we're ready for New Year's Eve and, you know, we'll be making sure all of our officers are using the right protocols and are making themselves as safe as possible."
KVUE confirmed that there are about 104 APD officers who have COVID-19 as of Dec. 30. Chacon said each officer is required to get tested on their first day of the workweek. He said the department has seen a number of asymptotic positive cases because of this testing requirement but still does not know how many officers are fully vaccinated or boosted.
APD told KVUE that some shifts could go out as much as 50% short in some cases, but that has already been the case and is not necessarily due to COVID-19. Chacon said that it is a challenge but is "manageable at this point," and the department has not had to take extreme measures like putting more administrative personnel or detectives on the front line.
This weekend, APD will also have staffing at 100% in other areas of the city besides downtown so, if needed, officers can be pulled from other regions to help out downtown.
Earlier this week, Austin police and City leaders said they will not reopen Sixth Street to traffic on the weekends. In a City memo, APD and City of Austin leaders said they would not reopen the street to traffic because there are too many people and the sidewalks are not big enough to handle the foot traffic.
For more information on COVID-19 among other Austin first responders, such as medics and firefighters, click here.
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