'Please take this virus seriously': Widow of Philadelphia officer issues heartbreaking coronavirus warning

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The wife of a Philadelphia police officer is issuing a heartbreaking warning after her husband died from the coronavirus.

"It's the most devastating feeling imaginable not to be able to be with my husband at the end, to hold his hand, to tell him what our life together has meant," said Vita Walker.

Wearing a mask, a heartbroken Vita says the last time she saw her husband, 59-year-old Lt. James Walker, was March 27, when she took him to Abington Hosptial.

The 32-year Philadelphia police veteran is the city's first employee to die from the coronavirus.

Lt. James Walker



"He loved his job, and he refused to let this virus stop him from doing this job," she said.

Assigned to the traffic division, Walker had previously worked in eight other police districts, as well as the Narcotics Strike Force. While he did have high blood pressure and diabetes, Vita says Walker did everything he could to protect himself from the virus.

"I know they gave him a mask, and my husband was notorious --even before this- he always wore gloves, he had sanitizer," said Vita.

While neither the city nor the police department will confirm, Action News has learned that as of April 5, 107 officers are being evaluated for COVID-19, while 45 officers have been diagnosed.

"They're scared, they're concerned. They're nervous for themselves, their families. They don't know what they're bringing home. Whether they're infected, not infected. This is unchartered territory," said FOP President John McNesby.

Unchartered territory, that Vita says cost her husband his life. She has this warning for those Walker swore to protect.

"Please take this virus seriously, it is destroying families. It's destroying lives and it has forever changed and altered the outcome of my life. So please take this virus seriously, it is no joke, it is a killer," said Walker fighting through tears.



LATEST NUMBERS

The number of coronavirus cases continues to rise in the City of Philadelphia, with hundreds of additional cases reported on Monday.

During a news conference, the city reported 539 additional cases, bringing the city's total to 3,728.

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More than 500 new COVID-19 cases were announced on Monday as the death toll in Philadelphia rose to 45.



Two additional deaths were also reported on Monday, bringing the city's total to 45.

Eighteen of those victims were residents of nursing homes.

Of the confirmed cases, 495 are hospitalized in the city while another 897 residents are hospitalized in the Philly region.

TESTING SITES

The city announced Monday that the testing site at Citizens Bank Park will be discontinued as of 6 p.m. on Friday, April 10.

The decision was made by FEMA and is supported by the city.

The mayor's office said the closure will allow remaining testing kits to be redistributed to indoor sites to expand their testing capacity, and any remaining personal protective equipment (PPE) will be redistributed to support hospitals and long-term care facilities.

The following was also released by the mayor's office:

The City-run location in Center City, announced last week, will continue to serve those who are over the age of 50 and are displaying symptoms consistent with COVID-19 coronavirus, as well as health care workers who are displaying symptoms consistent with COVID-19 coronavirus. The site is available by appointment only and a referral is required. Those who meet the criteria and want a test can call (267) 491-5870 to obtain a referral.
The Health Department has expanded the definition of health care workers who are eligible to be tested for COVID-19 coronavirus at City-run testing sites. "Health care worker" now refers to the following:

Clinicians
EMS providers
Nursing home workers
Home care workers
Non-clinical staff who have direct patient contact
Behavioral health workers
Persons who work in congregate settings, including homeless shelters and prisons

FACE MASKS

Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said Philadelphia will follow the updated guidelines from the CDC concerning the public wearing face masks when being outside.

Farley has said these guidelines are for non-medical masks, as those should be saved for hospital workers and those in the medical field.

Farley said wearing a cloth mask will help protect the people around you.
RELATED: How to make face masks from materials found at home

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Officials with the City of Philadelphia have announced more positive cases of the coronavirus, additional COVID-19 related deaths, and new guidelines concerning face masks.



ESSENTIAL SERVICES UPDATES

While trash pickup will continue on or close to schedule, recycling will now be every other week.

"The new every other week recycling collection schedule begins April 6 so residents should hold their recycling next week. Week of April 13 residents can set their materials out on their normal collection day," the Philadelphia Streets Department tweeted.

The new collection schedule will last through May 15 or further.

As for trash collection, the Streets Department said, "Regular trash collections will continue on or as close to its normal schedule as possible. Residents should expect some delays as the health crisis continues to have an impact on employee attendance. There will be no trash collections on Friday, April 10th in honor of the Good Friday holiday."

They posted an updated schedule on their website.

"Crews will be working through the weekend to pick up this week's trash and recycling. We thank residents for their patience as crews work safely and quickly as possible during these unprecedented times," the Streets Department tweeted.

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