The word hero is taking on a new meaning as COVID-19 sweeps across the nation. Those on the front lines represent this title while working to help others during this time.
Tennessee State Trooper Joseph VanBommel, is one of these heroes who is protecting several counties, including Warren, DeKalb, Cannon and Smith. VanBommel has been a state trooper since 2017.
State troopers play many different roles throughout the state, but VanBommel is helping Warren County, in particular, by monitoring the Health Department where individuals are being tested, as well as other alternate testing sites throughout the area.
“I’ll periodically drive through and check with the testing sites to make sure they’re not having any issues,” says VanBommel.
VanBommel’s command staff is taking the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of state troopers, including providing emergency protective equipment, such as gloves and masks.
“Ultimately, we still have a job to do and must carry on,” says VanBommel. “We just take a few extra precautions when dealing with people. However, we’ve practiced staying six feet away from individuals for a long time. We try not to get up close, if possible.”
State troopers have continuously used hand sanitizer on a day-to-day basis after dealing with anyone.
“We’re continuing to wash our hands and carry hand sanitizer throughout the day to not bring anything home,” says VanBommel. “Contracting the coronavirus is a possibility, but I wouldn’t say it’s a fear. I’m aware it’s very possible I could come in contact with someone who’s carrying it.”
If an individual is showing signs or symptoms of being infected with COVID-19 and provide that information to dispatchers, the troopers can prepare themselves.
“We won’t typically have that information ahead of time,” says VanBommel. “It comes back to how we conduct business every day. We’re very cautious regardless of what the current situation is. Obviously, if we know that information we may go about a different way in handling things, including wearing gloves and masks.”
VanBommel is part of Troop D of the Cookeville District. He’s been involved in law enforcement for 12 years, and began his career as a correctional officer at the Warren County Sheriff’s Department. He then worked as a police officer at McMinnville Police Department before becoming a state trooper.
“We understand our job still has to be done, and people are still on the roadways,” says VanBommel. “Although we understand this is a deadly disease, we also understand there are a lot of other issues we must continue addressing.”
With coronavirus, VanBommel states everything is happening on a day-to-day basis.
“As long as we continue to follow the guidelines and work together as a community, we’ll get through this,” says VanBommel.