Officers, nurses discuss being on the frontline in battle vs. virus |

Officers, nurses discuss being on the frontline in battle vs. virus

The South Lake Tahoe Police Department.
Bill Rozak / Tahoe Daily Tribune

While the virus continues to spread, some people have unfortunately lost their jobs or are unable to work while others are lucky enough to work from the safety of their homes.

However, some essential workers are out in the world, keeping the community safe and afloat while potentially putting themselves in danger of the virus.

South Lake Tahoe Police Department

Sgt. Russell Liles is the patrol sergeant for the department. He spends most of his week in the office but checks in with his patrol officers and hears their experiences.

“We’ve seen that in general, the public is more supportive,” Liles said. Adding that people seem friendlier and are regularly waving and thanking the patrol officers.

Interim Police Chief Shannon Laney said they’ve tried to limit the amount of face-to-face interactions for the officers, taking most statements over the phone.

Still, some situations require an in-person response. Liles said his officers are nervous.

“We have families to go home to,” Liles said. Many of the patrol officers have children or elderly parents living with them and are nervous to bring the virus home with him.

“We’re bound to do a public safety job that’s essential,” Liles said. “We don’t have the luxury of taking time off but on the flip side, we’re blessed to still be working.”

Barton Health nurses

Barton Memorial Hospital Emergency Department Nurse Spencer Rhodes has also seen support from the community.

“The community has been extremely supportive of healthcare workers on the front-line,” Rhodes said in an email. “Patients have been thankful and encouraging of our efforts. The community has been donating personal protective equipment like face masks and gloves, which is very helpful as we face a national shortage. Overall, it’s been nice to see how supportive the community has been. People have exhibited a tremendous amount of patience and understanding toward us in the Emergency Department.”

Working in the ED, Rhodes said they’ve always been concerned about infectious diseases and now COVID-19 is adding a new level of concern to their jobs.

They’ve been screening people who come into the department, looking for anyone showing symptoms.

“Inside the ED many of our rooms have been modified to be negative pressure rooms, which provides patients and healthcare workers a higher level of safety,” Rhodes said. “Another valuable addition to our processes is the referral-only Respiratory Screening Center and Drive-up Clinic. This has been really valuable in pre-screening people and keeping the ED from being overwhelmed.”

While Rhodes said he’s not concerned for himself, he is concerned about bringing the virus home to his family. Barton has provided the nurses additional scrubs to change into at the end of the day, so they don’t have to bring their dirty scrubs home and they are given PPE to allow them to safely help patients.

The thing that keeps Rhodes going during this hectic time is his work family, he says the ED crew is a tight-knit team.

“I truly believe this is what keeps us going in stressful times; the sense of belonging to a supportive and caring team brings us back the next day to provide a high level of care to our community,” Rhodes said.

Rhodes said he’s never been more proud to be a nurse but he can’t wait to get back to drinking beer with his friends, skiing, mountain biking and enjoying Tahoe.

He also thanks tourists who have decided to stay away from Tahoe during this time.

If you have a frontline story, email the Tribune at

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