RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The Officer Down Memorial Page is calling COVID-19 the top killer of law enforcement officers for 2020 and 2021. The organization tracks the deaths of law enforcement officers across the country.
So far this year, it counted 229 total line-of-duty deaths. Of those, 120 were listed as COVID-19. Gunfire was the second largest killer at 39. January was the deadliest month for a total of 52 deaths.
Looking back at 2020, there were a total of 370 deaths. COVID-19 accounted for 241 of those deaths.
In the fire service, the U.S. Fire Administration has counted 78 line of duty deaths, 34 percent has COVID-19 listed as the “nature of fatal injury.”
Since the start of the pandemic, front-line workers like first responders have known to be one of the most at-risk groups for COVID-19. Their daily interactions with the public and their close quarters at places like firehouses put them at risk for infection and fast spread.
CBS 17 reported in July that just half of Wake County’s firefighters were vaccinated. Zebulon currently sits at a 60-percent vaccination rate, while Apex has 62-percent and Wendell is at 70-percent. Raleigh and Cary, the other fire departments in Wake County, did not provide their numbers.
Wake County has encouraged its government employees, like law enforcement and firefighters, to get vaccinated. Employees already fully vaccinated or who get fully vaccinated by Sept. 15 will receive $250 and two days of bonus leave.
Wake County employees who choose not to get fully vaccinated by the Sept. 15 deadline must be tested weekly for COVID-19, starting Sept. 20.