SAN ANTONIO – Officers at the San Antonio Police Department’s Central Substation were provided hand sanitizer Wednesday that had an expiration date of 2011, leading some officers within the department to question their agency’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“We don’t want officers getting sick at work and bringing it home to their families,” said Mike Helle, president of the San Antonio Police Officers Association. “Why in the world would our department distribute something that is completely worthless?”
Germ-X, the maker of the hand sanitizer distributed to some SAPD officers Wednesday, said it cannot guarantee the effectiveness of its product if used past the expiration date, according to a frequently asked questions section on its website.
Helle said that he gave SAPD command staff plenty of time to properly roll out health protections for its frontline officers who interact with the public and was disappointed with their response.
“We’re just one patient away from really hurting our police department and I’m not really seeing a lot of positive responses from our command,” Helle said.
Along with bottles of hand sanitizer, officers were given N95 respirator masks.
Helle said some officers were not provided either item.
SAPD officials on Wednesday released a lengthy statement on personal protective items available to their officers:
The CDC recommends washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds to minimize the risk of spreading illness. This is the primary practice encouraged for SAPD officers. Additional safety equipment that is available to all officers are latex free nitrile gloves, infection barrier kits and their PPE gear which consists of a P-100 respiratory mask, gas mask and a Tyvek suit. The unopened hand sanitizer that was distributed is still an effective method to sanitize hands when soap and water are not readily available. In the coming week, all substations will receive two 5-gallon containers of hand sanitizer so that officers can refill their personal sanitizer bottles.
When repeatedly asked about the expired hand sanitizer specifically, the spokeswoman said the unopened expired hand sanitizer is still an effective method to sanitize hands and was approved for distribution by the CDC.
The spokeswoman also said the department, so far, has not made adjustments to its roll calls or academy training classes.
Helle also expressed concerns about SAPD vehicles not being properly sanitized between shifts, saying that the interiors should be wiped down at the very least.
He is hoping to connect with area businesses that sell sanitizing items, such as disinfectant wipes and spray and gloves, in bulk.
Helle said the union would then purchase the items and distribute them directly to SAPD officers.
He asked anyone associated with a major retailer that could assist with the request to call 210-822-4428.
The criticism from Helle comes the same day that health professionals began giving medical screenings to people in SAPD custody outside of the Central Magistrate’s Office at 401 S. Frio Street.
Screenings viewed by a KSAT 12 news crew took about three minutes to complete.
Bexar County Sheriff’s Office officials shared footage of their medical screening process, which has been taking place inside the jail Sally port since March 13.
BCSO officials announced Tuesday night that an inmate had been isolated and tested for COVID-19 after showing flu-like symptoms.
BCSO officials said Wednesday afternoon that the results of those tests were not yet available.
COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new virus, stands for coronavirus disease 2019. The disease first appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan, China, but spread around the world in early 2020, causing the World Health Organization to declare a pandemic in March.
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