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Exclusive: South Florida Law Enforcement Officers Afflicted With COVID Returning To Work Sooner

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – CBS4 News has learned that South Florida police officers who have contracted COVID-19 have been returning to work sooner than expected.

It follows new guidelines from the CDC in late December that shorten the isolation time for people who have contracted COVID to 5 days if they are asymptomatic and have no fever and wear a mask.

READ MORE: Fort Lauderdale Police Officer James McDowell Charged With Grand Theft, Scheme To Defraud

South Miami Police have been able to return to work sooner. South Miami Police Chief Rene Landa says that officers who test positive normally have to wait 10 days to be retested, but now that period is shortened if they have no symptoms.

In an exclusive interview with CBS4’s Peter D’Oench, Landa said, “If you are asymptomatic what we are talking about is where you have tested positive but you don’t have any symptoms you can come back and test within a 5-day period.”

He said within a few days of that, officers testing negative are usually allowed to return to work.

“Sometime we hold the time to the 10-day period because we just want to make sure everyone is safe. We are seeing that some officers are getting badly affected and others are not. It lasts two to three days in some cases where officers are over it completely and so often within 7 days of being negative those officers can return to work.”

Landa says that is good news for public safety and he says previous shortages of officers have been a challenge to deal with.

He said, “Whatever you don’t have you have to fill those positions and have to bring in other officers and that takes a very big toll on the department. We are seeing officers getting back to work sooner and we want to make sure they are safe and their families are safe and the public is safe.”

Veteran South Miami Police Detective Fernando Bosch said he was able to come back to work sooner under the new guidelines after contracting COVID. He said it caught him off guard because he had been vaccinated.

READ MORE: Cellphone Video Of Shots Fired At CityPlace Helped Police Make An Arrest

Bosch said, “I had a little stuffy nose for a day and half and that was it. Thank God I was not really sick. I was surprised that I tested positive because I had no symptoms and I wasn’t feeling bad and I was surprised because I thought it was a false positive.”

“Shortly after that I was able to come back to work and I feel great. The 5-day test period is great because you can come back sooner and we need more officers. Especially in a smaller department where you need all the officers you can get and that 5-day window means we have more officers on the street.”

Bosch added, “I would tell everyone to get tested and wear a mask and be careful and be safe.”

Steadman Stahl, the President of the South Florida PBA, said, “I believe everyone who is negative should go back. If you are positive you should stay away from everyone but if you are negative you are fine. I believe all the departments are starting to follow the CDC guidelines and so whatever the CDC is saying, we are following them right now. That’s why Miami-Dade Police went from 14 to 7 days.

Miami-Dade Police said that officers who are positive must re-test on the 7th day and if the results are negative and they have no symptoms and no one in their household is positive, they are cleared to return to work. If the test is positive and they still have symptoms, they must re-test on the 10th day.

Coincidentally, Stahl said he is recovering from COVID. He said he tested positive last Saturday and then tested negative on Wednesday.

Stahl said, “I have had zero symptoms, no headache, no fever, nothing. This COVID thing is the real deal. I was vaccinated but I still got it.”

Miami Police said officers who are positive must isolate in their homes for 7 days and rest every 72 hours until they receive a negative test and have no symptoms. Once they test negative and have no symptoms, they can return to work.

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Miami Police tells CBS4 they have 1,277 sworn officers. They said 150 police officers and 20 civilian employees are out due to COVID.

Peter D’Oench

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Fired Former Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo Files Lawsuit Against City, Commissioners, City Manager

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Three months after he was fired, former Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo is taking legal action against the City of Miami.

On Wednesday, Acevedo filed a 50-page lawsuit claiming the city manager and three commissioners violated his First Amendment rights.

READ MORE: London-Bound American Airlines Flight Returned To MIA After Passenger Refused To Wear A Mask

Acevedo claims they illegally retaliated against him for blowing the whistle on, what he describes as, a toxic stew of corruption and wrongdoing at city hall.

That includes City Manager Art Noriega and Commissioners Joe Carollo, Alex Díaz de la Portilla, and Manolo Reyes.

The complaint details several examples of alleged illegal and unethical activity by commissioners, saying they attempted to “weaponize” Miami police officers against their enemies.

WATCH: Deborah Souverains Report On Art Acevedo’s Lawsuit

Acevedo said his firing after only being on the job six months was retribution for trying to maintain his independence as police chief.

It claims those commissioners “targeted Chief Acevedo because of his resistance to their efforts to use the MPD to carry out their personal agendas and vendettas, his reform efforts, and his speaking out against corruption and abuse of power by the City of Miami Commission.”

The new lawsuit alleges Commissioner Carollo demanded Acevedo investigate multiple businesses of his political opponent on allegations Acevedo says were unfounded

It also claims the commissioners interfered in an investigation into a Miami Sergeant-at-Arms, accused of a security breach.

READ MORE: COVID-19 Testing Site Finder

The lawsuit further says commissioners pushed back against Acevedo’s efforts to combat excessive use of force and their alleged cover-ups.

The suit cites a specific instance where “a woman in police custody spit on an officer, the officer punched her in the face and drove her to the ground, causing her to lose consciousness.”

Back in September and October, Acevedo was the subject of criticism in a series of fiery commission meetings.  The concerns raised included a comment Acevedo made about the department being run by the “Cuban mafia,” his demoting of several police officers, and a Fraternal Order of Police survey which found 79% of those polled did not have confidence in Acevedo’s ability to run the department.

Commissioner Carollo even went so far as to criticize the size of Acevedo’s pants when he performed as Elvis for a charity fundraiser and made comments about if he was “wearing a jockstrap.”

Noriega released the following statement in response to the lawsuit:

“This was expected and I look forward to the opportunity to discredit these false claims made by the former Police Chief. It’s clearly an attempt to retaliate against the individuals that held him accountable for his own shortcomings as Miami Police Chief and to attempt to salvage his professional reputation by casting blame on others. I will leave it to our Law Department to address the complaint directly through the proper legal channels.”

Commissioner Manolo Reyes also issued a statement:

“It is extremely unfortunate that Mr. Acevedo has chosen to sue the city of Miami and its elected officials for his own shortcomings as a police chief. We look forward to handling this matter in court. More so, at no time did I give Mr. Acevedo a list of restaurants and bars to investigate. Nor did I give him any directive regarding an internal affairs investigation.

We will all have our day in court.”

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Commissioner Carollo could not be reached for comment.

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London-Bound American Airlines Flight Returned To MIA After Passenger Refused To Wear A Mask

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – An American Airlines London bound flight from Miami was forced to turn around Wednesday night after a passenger refused to wear a mask.

Flight 38 was about an hour and a half into its flight to Heathrow Airport when it circled back and returned to Miami International Airport.

READ MORE: Fired Former Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo Files Lawsuit Against City, Commissioners, City Manager

Police dispatch called for officers to meet the plane at Gate D14 because at least one passenger was not respecting the mask mandate. Once it landed, more than 100 passengers were informed they had to get off the plane.

Many on the plane had no idea why it returned to Miami.

“Disappointed. They wouldn’t really say anything and I don’t think they told the flight attendants anything because all they would say is there was an extreme incident and they had to turn around,” said one passenger.

READ MORE: COVID-19 Testing Site Finder

“They just told us to get off and the police were there,” said another passenger.

American Airlines issued a statement apologizing for the inconvenience.

“American Airlines flight 38 with service from Miami (MIA) to London (LHR) returned to MIA due to disruptive customer refusing to comply with the federal mask requirement. The flight landed at MIA where local law enforcement met the aircraft. We thank our crew for their professionalism and apologize to our customers for the inconvenience.”

MORE NEWS: COVID-19 Vaccine Site Finder

The flight was canceled as a result of the incident, leaving these flyers to seek alternate arrangements.

CBSMiami.com Team

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COVID-19 Testing Site Finder

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(Getty Images)

Miami-Dade County offers free testing for COVID-19 at drive-thru, walk-in and mobile sites.

CLICK HERE TO FIND A TESTING SITE NEAR YOU IN MIAMI-DADE.

Test site operations have expanded in Broward to meet increased demand.

CLICK HERE TO FIND A TESTING SITE NEAR YOU IN BROWARD.

In Monroe County, positive COVID-19 cases are significantly increasing as well.

CLICK HERE TO FIND A TESTING SITE NEAR YOU IN MONROE.

CBSMiami.com Team

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