Erie police officers quarantining for COVID-19 called to Saturday protests

    (Capital-Star photo by Hannah McDonald)

    ERIE, Pa.– Monday, Erie Police Chief Daniel P. Spizarny Sr. admitted in an interview with the Capital-Star that off-duty officers who were quarantining for COVID-19 were called in to help break up riots downtown. 

    “Every available body was called,” Spizarny said in a joint press conference with the Erie Mayor Joe Schember.  

    Referring to the five Erie officers who had previously been quarantining for COVID-19, Spizarny said, “They returned and masked- up,” in order to quell the protest.

    Spizarny’s decision to call in off-duty quarantined officers comes as Erie County’s number of positive COVID-19 cases continue to rise at a faster pitch than in the previous months of the pandemic. 

    Erie County announced its first COVID-19 case on Mar. 18. By the end of the month, the northwestern Pennsylvania county had 16 confirmed cases. Throughout April, the positive case count climbed by six dozen for a total of 88 cumulative cases on May 1. 

    In May, the county’s case number skyrocketed. Between May 8 — when Erie County became one of the first counties to enter the yellow phase of reopening — and the end of the month, the positive case count more than doubled. In just three weeks, Erie saw 139 new COVID-19 cases. 

    On Wednesday, during her first COVID-19 press briefing since Saturday’s protest, Erie County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper announced seven new cases in the county for a total of 314 cumulative cases. Thus far, 197 patients have recovered. Six have died.

    Based on these numbers, Erie remains under a state of emergency. 

    “And I don’t really anticipate lifting that until we have an antibody or a cure for COVID-19,” Schember told the Capital-Star Monday. “So I think it’s going to be in effect for a while.” 

    By a while, Schember said he means “months, plural.”