DULUTH – The police department is switching to an emergency staffing schedule after roughly a quarter of employees were forced to quarantine due to COVID-19.

Duluth Police spokeswoman Ingrid Hornibrook said that as of Tuesday afternoon, 17 staff members were at home because they tested positive for the virus. Another 31 employees, including Police Chief Mike Tusken, were in quarantine because of contact tracing.

The department, with about 158 officers and 40 other employees, will implement a staffing plan similar to one used at the pandemic's onset to mitigate the virus' spread. Starting Thursday, investigative officers will work rotating shifts and back up patrol officers, who will work five consecutive 12-hour days followed by a 10-day quarantine period.

"Given the rising numbers of positive cases and the nature of our work, our staff is at risk for exposure," Tusken said in a Facebook post Friday. "No matter the circumstances, the DPD is still well positioned to continue safely serving the City of Duluth. Having staffing to respond to 911 emergency calls is our priority."

Hornibrook said that of the 31 staff members in quarantine, four are waiting for COVID-19 test results. The department expects 32 employees to be able to return to work Monday.

She added that a group of officers was forced to quarantine after attending a state-mandated training session attended by someone who tested positive for the virus. Some contracted the virus from known sources outside of work, while others cannot identify when they came in contact with someone contagious.

Hornibrook declined for privacy reasons to say what symptoms the officers were experiencing. But she said she did not believe any police staff were hospitalized from the virus.