Williston police officer’s coronavirus scare drives home heightened risk during pandemic


Birthday parties aren’t possible with the coronavirus pandemic. But this 10-year-old will still have a birthday to remember thanks to local police. Burlington Free Press

Earlier this month, Williston Police Officer Sarah Bell thought she had been exposed to the new coronavirus while on the job. 

She immediately went home from work when she developed a fever, and her doctor soon gave her a referral to get tested for COVID-19.

While she waited for those results to come back she and her significant other — also a police officer — lived at opposite ends of their small home. She said she sanitized everything she touched to prevent him from getting sick and spreading it to his department in Milton.

Bell, 27, also started mentally retracing her steps on the days and hours leading up to her suspected exposure. It was a “nerve-wracking” few days until she received her results showing she was negative.

“You definitely think about how quickly this can spread and how many people you interacted with and the importance of wearing a mask and keeping your distance,” Bell said. “It really brings it all home for you.”

Williston’s officers have tried to handle as many calls over the phone as safely possible during the pandemic. When they respond to a call, they don masks and gloves and keep a 6-foot distance. Someone typically works from home each day to make sure at least one police department employee is uncompromised if someone else gets sick at the station, Bell said.

After almost two years with the police department, Bell knows that her job is always going to involve some level of risk. Her scare made her even more aware of how that risk has been heightened by the pandemic.

“We’re trained to think tactically in a lot of situations,” Bell said. “With this, anyone can have COVID-19 and they may not know it.”

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Contact Elizabeth Murray at 802-651-4835 or emurray@freepressmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizMurrayBFP.

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