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In the past couple of years, a number of white women have gone viral for calling the police on Black people for the smallest infractions or for simply existing. Now, police departments say they’ve been receiving calls from people reporting loud coughing next door. In the era of the coronavirus, paranoia is at an all-time high concerning the highly infectious disease. However, do people’s fears warrant the involvement of the police for a cough?

According to Desert Sun, California is one state that’s reported an excess of 911 calls over the coronavirus. Coachella Valley police departments say they’ve started shifting through 911 reports from callers who are worried about their neighbor’s overly loud sneezing or coughing, which makes them concerned that they might have the coronavirus.

According to Sgt. Mike Casavan, Palm Springs officers estimate dispatchers received about five of these calls last week. Cathedral City police Cmdr. Paul Herrera also said dispatchers within his department fielded similar calls.

In many instances, the calls are forwarded to the fire department where paramedics are dispatched to directly address any medical needs before transporting the person to an area hospital. It takes a lab test result to determine whether a person is positive for the virus, a form of testing that is supposed to be free thanks to new legislation passed by the United States Senate on Wednesday.

Cathedral City dispatchers say they were instructed to ask callers if they or the person they were calling about had recently returned from a trip abroad or if the person had any contact with someone who tested positive for the virus.

“We’re following directions from the county and working closely with public health to support them,” Riverside County sheriff’s Sgt. Albert Martinez said. “We’re treating everything like we would if it was the flu. We are telling our employees to wash hands, be careful.”

Questions still arise as to whether calling 911 on a neighbor for loud coughing and sneezing is the appropriate response, considering there are many other conditions that can cause coughing and sneezing such as post nasal drip, allergies, smoking or the common cold….which is still a thing even though coronavirus has taken the spotlight.

Even if a neighbor did test positive for the coronavirus, there’s no guarantee they would be removed from the building. Depending on their symptoms, they might be asked to simply self-quarantine like the rest of us.

Getting authorities involved without notifying the neighbor could also put some of the country’s most vulnerable at risk, even if the police aren’t necessarily sent to the location. With people like Donald Trump cracking down on immigrants, some immigrants report being “petrified” to seek medical treatment out of fear of retribution for their citizenship status.

Then from a basic standpoint, it’s slightly offensive to have the authorities called on you by some unknown source who probably doesn’t even know you by name.

Now might be a good time, or at least serve as a lesson, to get to know your neighbors. A simple phone call checking in on them could be a good first response to hearing them cough or sneeze. Community support is crucial now more than ever, even if we’re still practicing social distancing.

Either way, use some tact during these times and continued to stay informed about prevention and safety via the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).


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