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Anthony S. Fauci, the United States’ top infectious-disease expert, is urging police officers to get vaccinated against the coronavirus — saying the resistance “doesn’t make any sense” as “more police officers die of covid than they do in other causes of death.”

Police departments are facing an infection crisis, as departments around the country seeking to mandate vaccines clash with police unions and officers who oppose the requirements.

Law enforcement officers are considered to be at higher risk because they are exposed to more people in the line of duty. Fauci urged Americans in critical jobs to consider “the implications of not getting vaccinated.” He added: “I’m not comfortable with telling people what they should do under normal circumstances, but we are not in normal circumstances right now.”

Hundreds of police officers have died of covid-19 since the start of the pandemic. The disease caused by the coronavirus was the leading cause of death for officers in 2020 and 2021; five times as many died of covid-19 than of gunfire in the same period, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, which tracks the on-duty deaths of U.S. police officers.

Meanwhile, some police unions and officers are filing lawsuits to block mandates. In Chicago, a deadline for police officers to report their vaccination status passed Friday as the head of the police union urged officers not to comply — and the city’s mayor, Lori Lightfoot (D), vowed to put noncompliant officers on unpaid leave starting this week. The department is preparing for possible shortages by restricting time off for the rest of the police force, local television station WLS reported.

Here’s what to know