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SAPD: 'Factually-deficient' report about officer who tested positive for COVID-19 leads to 'fear and outright panic'

Police released new information about the officer who tested positive for COVID-19 following a report by a local news outlet.

SAN ANTONIO — The San Antonio Police Department released new information about an officer who, on Monday, tested positive for COVID-19. The release came after a local news outlet published what the department called a "factually-deficient story."

"We have had numerous inquiries today regarding a San Antonio Police officer who tested positive for COVID-19," said SAPD Sergeant Michelle Ramos, the agency's spokeswoman. "There was an inaccurate media report citing police sources that said the officer went to New York City and picked up a family member who was ill with the COVID-19 virus."

The announcement came after the city on Monday confirmed the first San Antonio Police officer tested positive for the novel coronavirus. In that news release, the city said two other officers were quarantined as they had a high likelihood of exposure to the virus. Officials did not indicate to which substation the officer is assigned, though sources said the officer is assigned to the traffic enforcement unit.

The department clarified Tuesday that the officer did not travel to New York, but that a member of his household did. And, according to authorities, the officer had not received the results of his relative's COVID-19 test as of Tuesday morning.

The agency also stated that the officer was not at work for eight days as reported by the news outlet. Police, instead, said the officer was at work for four-and-a-half days after coming into contact with his relative.

Police also dispelled a rumor that the officer came into contact with at least 30 individuals while on patrol, writing, "that number was not provided by the Department ... As we stated in the press release, we are looking into all his interactions with officers and the public. This is being done in collaboration with Metro Health and once all the individuals are identified, we will follow the recommended CDC protocols in determining any additional precautions to be taken."

KENS 5 has requested the total number of citations issued by the officer, along with the number of calls to which he was assigned and reports written by the officer.

The department, in response to an inquiry from KENS 5, forwarded what it sent to the news outlet in question Tuesday morning. The email called for a correction online, on-air and on social media.

KENS 5 reached out to the news outlet for comment and did not hear back as of this publication, though the outlet attached the San Antonio Police Department's email to their initial report, ending the article by stating that it stood by their reporting, reporters and sources.

"It is irresponsible to run with a story in which you have not properly vetted your sources. As you can imagine, rumors are running rampant throughout the department. These rumors have led to fear and outright panic due to the numerous false and misleading statements that you have reported as facts," police said in their email to the news outlet, adding that "now more than ever, this is the time for you to be accurate and sure of what exactly you are reporting. Your report last night was unfair to the officer, his co-workers, the department and ultimately the community."

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