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17 employees test positive for COVID-19 at Tucson's 911 dispatch center

17 employees test positive for COVID-19 at Tucson's 911 dispatch center

From the June's Tucson-area coronavirus coverage: Bars, gyms face shutdowns; Tucsonans worried telemedicine might disappear series

Seventeen employees of Tucson’s 911 dispatch center tested positive for COVID-19, with a majority being asymptomatic.

Tucson officials said they “are still able to meet expectations of service delivery” after 17 people tested positive for the coronavirus at the department that handles the city’s 911 emergency calls.

The city initiated mandatory, departmentwide testing starting last week at the Public Safety Communications Department that confirmed the breadth of the outbreak.

Eleven of the positive cases were asymptomatic while eight others were sent home as they awaited test results, according to a Wednesday email obtained by the Arizona Daily Star.

In the email, director Jamie O’Leary wrote that 75% of employees, which includes those who are cross-trained to function in multiple roles, remain available to both take and dispatch police, emergency management and fire calls. Six employees have already returned to work and seven more should be back by Monday.

“We are currently able to meet service level expectations but are taking an anticipatory readiness posture in the event of increased absences and are taking actions as identified” in the operations plan, O’Leary said.

The city also instituted a number of precautionary measures, including undergoing a commercial deep clean of the office, putting in sneeze guards at desks and making wearing masks mandatory, officials said.

“This situation is unfortunate, and I want to assure you that the city has plans in place to ensure the safety of our community and wellbeing of employees and that those plans and protocols have been followed expeditiously,” city manager Michael Ortega wrote.

Contact reporter Justin Sayers at or 573-4192. Twitter: @_JustinSayers. Facebook: JustinSSayers.

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Justin, a two-time University of Arizona graduate, covers local government, focusing on the City of Tucson. He previously worked at the Louisville Courier Journal, Arizona Republic and Hartford Courant and has received several journalism awards.

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