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Officers to limit in-person response, take reports over the phone due to COVID-19

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Posted at 4:15 PM, Mar 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-20 16:14:10-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Some police departments in Middle Tennessee are temporarily altering the way officers respond to calls amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Metro Nashville police will begin to take non-violent and non-emergency reports by telephone in order to help distance interactions between officers and the public.

"Officers will be triaging non-emergency and non-violent calls for service where the perpetrator is not present to determine whether a report can be taken via telephone instead of in-person," MNPD Chief Steve Anderson said. "This program was designed to promote the health of the men and women protecting Nashville’s public safety as well as that of our residents and visitors."

Callers whose report is taken over the phone will receive an incident number, the officer's name who took the report, information on how to obtain a copy of the report and any telephone numbers for follow up if needed.

These calls include the following:

  • Non-injury vehicle crashes that are not blocking the roadway, there is no disturbance between drivers, no driver impairment and no vehicles that need to be towed
  • Lost property, with the exclusion of firearms or narcotics
  • Identity theft with no physical evidence needed to be collected
  • Theft from a publicly accessible space
  • Theft from vehicles with no recoverable evidence at the scene, with the exclusion of firearms
  • Vandalism or damage where the suspect is not present and the loss is less than $5,000

MNPD is distributing 235 new cell phones to officers to help take reports over the phone.

In Clarksville, officers will be sent to calls that involve a violent crime or an urgent response. Citizens will be contacted by phone for incidents that do not require immediate officer presence, are non-violent calls, and may require a report.

Clarksville police precinct lobbies will also close to public access. They will be available by phone at 931-648-0656 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Murfreesboro police will also being taking non-emergency reports over the phone. If you are needing to report a non-emergency, call the tele-service unit at 615-893-1311.

Fire departments are also taking steps to protect their staff.

Clarksville Fire and Rescue will continue to respond to emergency calls, but in some cases they will be wearing required personal protective equipment.

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What is COVID-19 (a.k.a. the new coronavirus?)

According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. Examples include the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. COVID-19 stands for "Coronavirus disease 2019," which is when this strain of the coronavirus was discovered.

What are the symptoms?

The CDC says patients confirmed to have the 2019-nCoV reportedly had mild to severe respiratory illness with:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

Or at least two of the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell

At this time, the CDC believes symptoms could appear as soon as two days after exposure, or as long as 14 days.

Prevention

The CDC is recommending "common sense" measures such as:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.