NJ prosecutor: Cops can’t require COVID-19 patients to self-identify
Several law enforcement agencies have advised residents with COVID-19 to post notices on their homes
Anthony G. Attrino
NJ Advance Media
BERGEN COUNTY, N.J. — The prosecutor in New Jersey’s hardest hit county for coronavirus cases has ordered police chiefs to stop any efforts to require infected residents to self-identify or place quarantine signs on their front doors.
Bergen County Prosecutor Mark Musella wrote in a directive that “such requirements are totally inappropriate and therefore banned.”
Musella’s comments were issued in a directive on Saturday sent to all county police chiefs and directors, the sheriff and officers-in-charge. It came after several police departments “advised their residents (with COVID-19) to self-identify when seeking police assistance and/or to post notices on their residences.”
He said that’s simply not permitted and could put residents in danger.
“Several of our law enforcement agencies have, without authorization by the BCPO, gone beyond the guidelines,” Musella wrote. “Asking COVID-19 positive/quarantined individuals to self-identify that status when they seek police assistance may discourage those (with coronavirus) from seeking police assistance when they need it, thus endangering them, their families and the general public.”
Bergen County coronavirus cases and deaths have soared since the start of the outbreak with roughly 376 cases per every 100,000 people. As of Wednesday, 3,494 county residents have tested positive for COVID-19 and there have been 75 deaths.
In addition, seven hospitals in North Jersey notified state health officials this week that they have reached “divert status,” in a single day on Tuesday, meaning they were overwhelmed with patients.
Across New Jersey, 163 police officers have tested positive for coronavirus, according to Col. Patrick Callahan, acting Superintendent of the State Police. The state as of Wednesday had 22,255 cases and 355 deaths.
The Ridgewood Police Department was one of the agencies in Bergen County asking residents to self-identify during the 911 call and with a note on the front door.
“We also ask that you place a sign/note on your front door to alert our personnel to take infection-prevention precautions before entering your home or business,” the police department says.
The notice remained on the Ridgewood PD website Thursday morning, but other agencies in Bergen County removed notices from their social media pages and websites after Musella’s directive came out on Saturday.