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COVID surge strains rural Oklahoma law enforcement agencies

Posted at 5:36 PM, Jan 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-26 19:02:20-05

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The surge in COVID-19 cases is putting a strain on law enforcement officers in Cherokee County. Many sheriff’s deputies and Tahlequah officers are working overtime to make up for those who are out sick with the virus.

Sheriff Chennault tells 2 News Oklahoma, the department had had 9 members out sick with the virus; eight of those were patrol officers and one was an investigator. Officer absences accounted for more than 30 days where the department was short-handed.

Some patrol deputies had to work overtime and others had to work on their days off to help cover.

Other law enforcement agencies are also dealing with the same issue. Over the past month, Tahlequah police have had 14 officers out sick with COVID. Chief Nate King tells 2 News, the department is considering moving to a modified schedule to help keep more officers on duty.

Meanwhile, Sheriff Chennault says he hopes this latest surge in cases plateaus soon. “We’re a small department, so having 9 people out really hits us,” Chennault said. “Luckily we’ve had other people step up and work on some of their days off… We’ve gotten through it okay but it has been a problem.”

Sheriff Chennault says, if they ever get below staffing requirements he will consider calling on other neighboring counties to help.

While this latest surge in cases has been challenging for the department, sheriff Chennault says he’s thankful his deputies have only had mild cases of the virus.

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