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COVID-19 leading cause of death for law enforcement officers

The FOP Lodge 9 said Mecklenburg County law enforcement officers have a 2% chance of dying from COVID-19.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — For the second year in a row, the leading cause of death for law enforcement officers in the United States is COVID-19, according to numbers from the Officer Down Memorial Page (ODMP) and the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

The ODMP said more than 60% of officers killed this year died from the virus, more than quadruple the number of officers killed by gunfire.

The Fraternal Order of Police's Lodge 9 (FOP) in Mecklenburg County said a total of 375 officers and deputies in Mecklenburg County tested positive for the virus, and one Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office detention officer died from COVID-19 complications.

The FOP said a law enforcement officer working in the county has a 2% chance of dying from the virus.

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"If we think about every single time that we go out there and something that is going to hurt us or kills, we wouldn't be able to do our job," said Yolián Ortiz, an FOP spokesperson. "We have to put that fear aside of COVID or whatever else may be out there to continue to be able to protect our community."

According to the FOP, 60% of officers in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department got the vaccine while 67% of deputies with the Mecklenburg County Sheriffs Office got the vaccine.

There have been attempts to ensure those deputies who have the vaccine are clearly indicated to the public when MCSO sends them on a call; vaccinated deputies get to wear a wristband confirming their vaccination status.

Janet Parker, the spokesperson for MCSO, said the wristbands were originally given out to make it easier when deputies clocked in for the day.

"They presented their vaccination card. They could receive their MCSO vaccinated wristband to bypass those daily testing protocols," Parker said.

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Since then, the symbolism of the wristbands has evolved as the 33% of employees who haven't gotten vaccinated see more of their co-workers wearing them.

"They are out in the public," Parker said. "They're interacting with the community every day so we certainly hope it has encouraged it."

The sheriff's office isn't requiring the vaccine, but unvaccinated deputies must get tested once a week.

Ortiz said the FOP is bracing for the possibility CMPD officers may come under a similar mandate, which would require unvaccinated officers to get tested several times a week.

She said the FOP is against a vaccine mandate.

"We want to make sure that everybody has that choice if you don't feel comfortable with taking that vaccine," Ortiz said, "that there's options out there for you as an officer or as an employee."

According to the latest CDC data, the effectiveness of vaccines against COVID-19 hospitalization is 93% for Moderna and 88% for Pfizer.

Contact Brandon Golder at bgoldner@wcnc.com and follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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