Wednesday, April 8, 2020

What's Up With The Commish?

The Commish On Zoom
By Ralph Cipriano

If she was in self-quarantine, it didn't last long.

A day after the city's managing director said the new police commissioner was working from home -- prompting several sources to say that she was in self-quarantine -- Danielle Outlaw returned today to the Police Administration Building to announce, "I am well, I am here."

At a "virtual" press conference, Outlaw told reporters calling in on Zoom that she had indeed been tested for the coronavirus and that the test results had come back negative. Outlaw stated that police officials who work at the department's Center City headquarters will continue "rotate our time" so that there's a limited number of officials in the office at any time, to minimize health risks. She also said she plans to continue to split her work day presumably by not only coming into the office, but continuing to work part-time at home.

The speculation surrounding the police commissioner began when Captain Sekou Kinebrew, a department spokesperson, was hospitalized this week with the virus. Kinebrew had been seen chauffeuring Outlaw around the city during her first weeks on the job, prompting health worries about the commissioner. Also a deputy commissioner is said to have tested positive this week for the virus.

Outlaw did not say when she had been tested for the virus, and when her test results came back, so in the way city officials continue to ration the news, it's not possible to know what Outlaw's true situation is. In coming back to work right away, however, some are questioning whether the commissioner was doing the right thing. Depending on a couple of facts we do not know, the answer to the question of whether the commish is doing the right thing may be no.

According to CDC guidelines posted online, a negative test for the virus "does not mean you will not get sick." The guidelines caution that when tested "it is possible that you were very early in your infection at the time of your specimen collection and that you could test positive later."

Dr. Alan Chaoui, head of Congenital Healthcare, a practice with 50,000 patients at five different locations in Massachusetts, told the Boston Globe that he advises all of his patients who have tested negative for the virus to assume they are infected, and to self-quarantine until they are symptom-free for at least 72 hours.

Again, thanks to the limited information provided by the city, we do not know when Outlaw was tested and when she got back her test results. A spokesman for the city, when asked those exact questions, declined to comment beyond what was said at the press conference.

At the press conference, in response to a question, Outlaw stated that "Quarantine is 14 days max." So it obviously doesn't apply to her.

In his interview with the Boston Globe, Dr. Chaoui also sounded the alarm about the accuracy of the tests, saying that "some health experts have suggested the number of false-negative coronavirus tests could be up to 30 percent."

That opinion is shared by another expert.

The tests for the coronavirus "may have a particularly high rate of missing infections," Dr. Harlan Krumholz, a professor of medicine at Yale University, wrote in The New York Times. "The best the Centers for Disease and Prevention can say is that if you test negative, 'you probably were not infected at the time your specimen was collected.'"

"The key word here is 'probably,'" the doctor wrote, adding that false negative test results "seem to be uncomfortably common."

"Increasingly, and disturbingly, I hear a growing number of anecdotal stories from my fellow doctors of patients testing negative for coronavirus and then testing positive -- or people who are almost certainly infected who are testing negative," Dr. Krumholz wrote.

"For now we should assume that anyone could be carrying the virus," Dr. Krumholz wrote. "If you have had likely exposures and symptoms suggest Covid-19 infection, you probably had it -- even if your test is negative."

The Trump administration has also released new guidelines that would allow essential workers to come back to work. The new guidelines say that if an employee who has been exposed to the virus is symptom free, he or she should take their temperatures every day, wear face masks at all times, and practice social distancing at work.

Meanwhile back in Philadelphia, the city isn't winning any prizes for being forthcoming about the effects the coronavirus has had on the police force.

Unlike other cities, Managing Director Brian Abernathy and Police Commissioner Outlaw are not releasing any statistics about how many officers have tested positive with the virus, and how many officers are under self-quarantine.

"We do know that other major departments have released that information," Outlaw admitted at the press conference. "It is the city's posture that they are not releasing numbers so to speak."

Today, Outlaw claimed that the total numbers of cops in the 6,500-member force who have tested positive for the virus or are under self-quarantine is less than one half of one percent, meaning that the total would be some 32 members.

In one squad in the Traffic Division alone, however, some 15 out of 30 members have tested positive for the virus. One of those members, Lt. James Walker, died Sunday.

When asked about the officers who have tested positive in the Traffic Division, Outlaw said, "I won't confirm any specifics units or divisions with positives."

"Our numbers . . . are low enough to where I'm not concerned that we need to call for mutual aid," Outlaw said.

The city's press conferences on the coronavirus, like today's 22-minute session, are held under less than ideal circumstances. They are virtual press conferences where reporters are invited to call in online, and hit a button to indicate they are raising their hands to ask a question. And then they are limited to no more than three questions.

The advantage goes to city officials like Abernathy who tends to read prepared statements that drone on for a while and basically say nothing. And then officials like Abernathy or Outlaw also don't have to answer too many pointed questions in a format where time is limited, and aggressive inquisitors can be cut off by the moderator.

At today's press conference, Jeff Cole of Fox 29 asked Outlaw about what sources have told his TV station, that the number of officers who have been evaluated and tested for the virus, or quarantined, are some 360, with 62 to 68 of those officers testing positive for the virus.

But Outlaw stuck to the script outlined by Abernathy.

"I've already addressed that I'm not confirming numbers and I explained why," she responded to Cole. "The number of people out right now . . . the percentage of people that are out are not concerning enough to where we need to do anything as far as calling in any mutual aid or seeking outside assistance for the department."

At the press conference today, Outlaw announced that she wanted all officers to wear cloth facemarks while on duty.

"Until we get more surgical masks, or that next level of mask between this and an N-95, this is the best," she said, displaying the new cloth facemarks. "Again, it is not ideal but we're doing the best with what we have."

More masks are on the way. The FOP Lodge No. 5 today announced that they have purchased 10,000 more masks, and that attorney General Josh Shapiro has donated an additional 5,000 masks to Philadelphia police officers.

Asked today about a spate of recent shootings, Outlaw again stated that the police are relying on
"collaboration of how we charge cases and proportionate consequences when we make arrests."

It was another dig at District Attorney Larry Krasner, whom Outlaw has previously criticized for running a "revolving door" system of justice where there are no consequences for getting caught carrying an illegal gun in the city.

Outlaw said her department wants to "get ahead" of the problem of gun violence, which, she said, is sure to get even worse "when the weather gets a lot nicer."

But today, on a day when the mercury topped 70, police reports indicated that a new shooting spree was already in progress.

At 3:46 p.m. in the 26th Police District,  at 1506 Marshall St. a 38-year-old black male driving a gray Lincoln was shot eight times in the upper torso. He was transported by medics to Jefferson University Hospital and pronounced dead at the scene at 4.26 p.m.

At 3:47 p.m. in the 25th Police District at 766 E. Hilton, a 21-year-old black male was reported to be shot in the right thigh. He was taken to Temple University Hospital by police and reported in stable condition.

In the 22nd Police District, at 4:24 p.m., a 41-year-old black male was shot three times in the back and once in the left leg, plus a grazed bullet wound to the head. He was transported to Temple University Hospital and said to be in critical condition.

And in the 12th Police District at 5:09 p.m. a 38 year-old black male was shot in the left leg. He was taken to Presbyterian Hospital and reported to be in stable condition.

Another man was reported shot in the head at 30th and Diamond.

In less than 90 minutes, there were five shootings last night in Philadelphia.

Another press conference on the coronavirus is scheduled for 1 p.m. tomorrow.

Expect more platitudes and evasiveness from city officials, as a couple of body counts continue to rise.

We're talking about officers who test positive for the coronavirus, or are under self-quarantine.

And we're talking about the criminals -- many of whom may have just been released from jail by District Attorney Larry Krasner -- who are shooting people on the streets of Philadelphia. 


  1. Seems like a fast turnaround time for a test. Where was the test done and why aren’t the rest of the city employees being directed there? Are their results any less essential?

  2. obviously another Kenney puppet! Ralph when was the last time she was at a crime scene? She is getting 285k!! Having a Deputy do them makes no sense! Welcome to the big city Outlaw! Ralph has anyone gotten the list of who else applied for the job whether they were inside or outside the Dept? Or does Kenney have that hidden under his barstool at the Race St Cafe??? what a joke!


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