Atlantic County Sheriff’s Officer Contracts Coronavirus; Coverup Alleged
In the interest of the public, I have no choice but to report serious allegations which have been brought to my attention.
The disturbing information has been reported to me by impeccable sources. Remaining silent is not an option. We are living in a pandemic of a life and death scale.
The public’s right to know trumps all else at this critical time of the Coronavirus world health emergency.
Well placed sources within the Atlantic County Sheriff’s department have blown the whistle and have provided me with information involving an Atlantic County Sheriff’s Officer and the Coronavirus.
A most serious allegation has also been made that Atlantic County Sheriff Eric Scheffler knew about an Officer’s hospitalization and kept the news from the rank and file for an extended time frame “in a cover-up.”
Our well placed sources first found out about this matter on, or, around March 18, 2020.
By this date, an Atlantic County Sheriff’s Officer had already been in one of our local hospitals for at least several days.
Our confidential well placed sources have confirmed that the Sheriff’s Officer tested positive for the Coronavirus.
I have been told that the Officer’s condition deteriorated very quickly and that he was on a ventilator “for a number of days.” Our sources stated “that they almost lost the Officer twice” during his touch-and-go hospital stay.
Thankfully, the Officer has since been released from the hospital and is now back at home.
I have been advised that the other Sheriff’s Officers were not told about this in a timely manner.
Our sources report that between 80-100 people were potentially exposed to this Officer and that no one was told about the officer’s contraction of the Coronavirus.
I have also been advised that the Officer’s Father did not know the whereabouts of his own son “for 5-6 days.”
This finally became wider (but, still only internally) known to the Sheriff’s Officers at a recent PBA meeting, when they learned that their fellow Officer was in the hospital.
Our sources have advised that the Atlantic County Board of Health have started calling others who may have been exposed to this Officer within the past 2 days.
If this timeline holds, and, our sources say that it does; it defies comprehension. This is about two weeks after the Officer was hospitalized with the Coronavirus.
I have been told that the phone calls were placed to apprise those who may have potentially been exposed to the Coronavirus. They were also asked if they were having any symptoms.
It doesn’t end here. I have also been advised that there is an Atlantic County Sheriff’s Sergeant, who is presently quarantined with his spouse.
Our sources have confirmed that they are both presenting with symptoms of the Coronavirus.
I have been advised that this Sergeant was responsible for the screening (temperature taking) of those entering the Atlantic County Court Building.
I am reporting this issue in the most responsible way that I can, so that those who have not received proper notification can do everything possible to stay safe and stay healthy.
The lack of proper communication in this matter is inexcusable and could result in a loss of life (lives).
In a follow-up piece, I will share with you the Eric Scheffler component of this sad story.
For the next 2-3 weeks, we are literally in a fight for our lives. This is the tipping point. The “stay at home” recommendation is believed to be helpful in mitigation efforts to keep the number of those infected to the lowest level humanly possible.
Anything resembling a coverup, or, poor communication in matters such as this simply cannot be tolerated.
Please keep everyone involved in your thoughts and prayers.
NOTE: The Atlantic County Sheriff’s Officer returned home to no food or cleaning supplies. The Officer’s fellow colleagues got together and have purchased food and cleaning supplies.
Let’s also please keep the Sergeant and spouse in our thoughts and prayers, as they potentially battle this beast Coronavirus.
NOTE 2: At the same time we filed our report, early this afternoon, I sent a copy of it to a close confidant of Eric Scheffler, asking for a comment that I would attach in full to our report.
At about 7:00 p.m. tonight, I received a copy of Scheffler’s statement. Scheffler first sent it to another member of the media.
I disagree with much of it. But, as I promised from the start, I wanted to include Scheffler’s comments from the beginning. I’m attaching it now within minutes of receiving it.
Scheffler knew from the start that I wanted him included in this report. His assertion otherwise, is false.
I was delicately protecting people I consider to be “whistleblowers.”
The delay in Scheffler being heard in this matter is that he took more than five hours to develop his statement.
As promised, here it is in its entirety:
“As the Atlantic County Sheriff, I am greatly disappointed in an article published today by a local radio host/journalist. I have always maintained a good working relationship with Harry Hurley and am surprised that he never tried to reach out to me directly in an effort to confirm or deny the allegations contained in his article. Simply stated, those allegations against me are completely false and inaccurate. Apparently there was absolutely no effort made to confirm any of the information with the subjects of the article. A simple telephone call to either myself or other subjects of the article would have avoided the spread of misinformation during a time where factual information is more important than ever.
My number one priority as the Sheriff is to protect the safety and health of all the men and women employed by our Department, as well as our entire Atlantic County community. Any suggestion to the contrary is irresponsible and baseless.
In an effort to dispel these groundless rumors I would offer the following:
Early on in this crisis, I divided our entire rank and file into two (2) platoons. We have been working on this schedule for quite some time. Members of our department are divided into 26-30 member shifts. While one shift mans the courthouses, the other shift is working from home on a week on/week off basis. We have respected social distancing as well as possible under the dynamics of a law enforcement agency. We have continuously checked on the safety and welfare of all our employees. Any individuals who are not feeling well are asked to stay home. We have adopted protocols/procedures and provided all of our staff with substantial information pertaining to COVID-19 safety precautions.
Unfortunately, not unlike many other law enforcement agencies, grocery stores, business entities, etc. we have in fact been impacted directly. It is true that one of our officers tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. It is completely untrue that there was any "cover-up" pertaining to notification to all of our department and anyone who may have been in contact with this officer.
That particular officer had been working a detail for the past several weeks and was not stationed at either of the Atlantic County Courthouses. A few weeks ago the officer contacted the Department and indicated that he was not feeling well and was advised to stay home. The officer remained out of work and ultimately checked into the hospital in late March 2020. Approximately five (5) days after the Officer checked into the hospital, test results confirmed positive for the virus. Immediately, anyone whom had been in contact with this officer, the county health department and general rank and file were appropriately notified.
Furthermore, that officer and his family has conveyed his sincere appreciation for the assistance provided from the Sheriff's Office to him and his family. It is offensive that the article in question suggested that the Sherriff's Department did not provide any assistance to the officer's family. That is 100% false.
Presently, no other officer has tested positive in the Department. Any members of the Department that are not feeling well are asked to self-quarantine and get tested. Unfortunately, law enforcement officers like everyone else in South Jersey are having a difficult time acquiring tests for the virus. This is an international crisis and our Department unfortunately has the same exposure as every other individual. I am doing everything I can to ensure the Atlantic County Sheriff's Department is following all directives from the CDC and other agencies responsible for our health and safety.
We continue to have daily meetings with the administration as well as rank and file to continue an open line of communication throughout our department. I certainly believe that it is necessary and imperative that each individual member of our department is fully informed of any potential exposure of the virus.
This COVID-19 virus has created a serious and unique risk for all members of our society. Unfortunately, there is a learning curve as we continue to gather more information about this highly contagious disease. I firmly believe that full transparency without violating HIPAA laws is the best way to protect the health and safety of our members. As always, if anyone ever has any questions pertaining to how our Department is handling any issues than I will make myself directly available.
In summary, the "impeccable source" cited by Harry recklessly provided false information. There was timely if not immediate reporting to all members of our Department. Furthermore, anyone who was known to have contact with this officer was quickly notified of possible exposure by our Department and the County Department of Health. Additionally, the last PBA meeting for that Department predated the officer's illness. As confirmed by the PBA President, there has not been a meeting since March 11th. All of these false rumors could have been dispelled with a simple telephone to me.
We have and will continue to gather information and disseminate to everyone employed by the Atlantic County Sheriff's Department in an effort to protect their health. Any suggestion to the contrary are not in accordance with fact or reality. Please pray for the health/safety of all members of our Department as well as our Atlantic County Community.”