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Exclusive: South Florida Law Enforcement Officers Afflicted With COVID Returning To Work Sooner

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - CBS4 News has learned that South Florida police officers who have contracted COVID-19 have been returning to work sooner than expected.

It follows new guidelines from the CDC in late December that shorten the isolation time for people who have contracted COVID to 5 days if they are asymptomatic and have no fever and wear a mask.

South Miami Police have been able to return to work sooner. South Miami Police Chief Rene Landa says that officers who test positive normally have to wait 10 days to be retested, but now that period is shortened if they have no symptoms.

In an exclusive interview with CBS4's Peter D'Oench, Landa said, "If you are asymptomatic what we are talking about is where you have tested positive but you don't have any symptoms you can come back and test within a 5-day period."

He said within a few days of that, officers testing negative are usually allowed to return to work.

"Sometime we hold the time to the 10-day period because we just want to make sure everyone is safe. We are seeing that some officers are getting badly affected and others are not. It lasts two to three days in some cases where officers are over it completely and so often within 7 days of being negative those officers can return to work."

Landa says that is good news for public safety and he says previous shortages of officers have been a challenge to deal with.

He said, "Whatever you don't have you have to fill those positions and have to bring in other officers and that takes a very big toll on the department. We are seeing officers getting back to work sooner and we want to make sure they are safe and their families are safe and the public is safe."

Veteran South Miami Police Detective Fernando Bosch said he was able to come back to work sooner under the new guidelines after contracting COVID. He said it caught him off guard because he had been vaccinated.

Bosch said, "I had a little stuffy nose for a day and half and that was it. Thank God I was not really sick. I was surprised that I tested positive because I had no symptoms and I wasn't feeling bad and I was surprised because I thought it was a false positive."

"Shortly after that I was able to come back to work and I feel great. The 5-day test period is great because you can come back sooner and we need more officers. Especially in a smaller department where you need all the officers you can get and that 5-day window means we have more officers on the street."

Bosch added, "I would tell everyone to get tested and wear a mask and be careful and be safe."

Steadman Stahl, the President of the South Florida PBA, said, "I believe everyone who is negative should go back. If you are positive you should stay away from everyone but if you are negative you are fine. I believe all the departments are starting to follow the CDC guidelines and so whatever the CDC is saying, we are following them right now. That's why Miami-Dade Police went from 14 to 7 days.

Miami-Dade Police said that officers who are positive must re-test on the 7th day and if the results are negative and they have no symptoms and no one in their household is positive, they are cleared to return to work. If the test is positive and they still have symptoms, they must re-test on the 10th day.

Coincidentally, Stahl said he is recovering from COVID. He said he tested positive last Saturday and then tested negative on Wednesday.

Stahl said, "I have had zero symptoms, no headache, no fever, nothing. This COVID thing is the real deal. I was vaccinated but I still got it."

Miami Police said officers who are positive must isolate in their homes for 7 days and rest every 72 hours until they receive a negative test and have no symptoms. Once they test negative and have no symptoms, they can return to work.

Miami Police tells CBS4 they have 1,277 sworn officers. They said 150 police officers and 20 civilian employees are out due to COVID.

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