Californians are calling 911 on their coughing neighbors

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Multiple police departments in Southern California say they have been receiving more 911 calls from residents concerned that their coughing neighbor may have the coronavirus.

The phone calls have increased concurrently with the number of coronavirus cases in Riverside and San Bernardino County, the Desert Sun reported.

A lone jogger runs past the 746th National Guard unit in Los Angeles, Calif. on Wednesday, March 18, 2020. 

A lone jogger runs past the 746th National Guard unit in Los Angeles, Calif. on Wednesday, March 18, 2020.  (AP)

Sgt. Mike Casavan of the Palm Springs Police Department told the outlet on Monday that dispatchers have received at least five of these types of calls in the past week. Police Cmdr. Paul Herrera of neighboring Cathedral City said dispatchers have received similar calls.

Dispatchers there have been instructed to ask each caller whether the person they were calling about had recently returned from a trip abroad. But as the outbreak grew worse, they began asking callers whether the person has had contact with someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Given the circumstances, authorities have been treating each call seriously. In most cases, paramedics are dispatched to the area to provide necessary medical attention before transporting the person to a hospital, the Desert Sun reported.

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Neil Gallucci, chief of the Carlsbad Police Department, said the coronavirus has made authorities extra vigilant to avoid a scenario in which a coronavirus patient infects a first responder who then spreads the infection to other first responders.

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“If that happens enough, we worry about calls for service,” he said. “We’re prepared to deal with issues that come up, but it’s a concern chiefs worry about.”