WINNIPEG -- Police across Canada are adding masks and shields to the equipment they wear day-to-day while working during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Officers interacting with the public in Winnipeg now carry respirators – once used to protect against exposure to drugs – in their kit bags, according to Const. Rob Carver of the Winnipeg Police Service.

“This mask allowed officers to go into places contaminated with fentanyl and carfentanyl,” Carver told CTV News. “By sheer chance now, this mask happens to be perfect for the pandemic.”

Other police services across the country are also making changes to protect their officers in the field, including RCMP in Burnaby, B.C., who tweeted a photo of protective headgear and asked people not to be alarmed when they see officers wearing masks. 

And it’s not just police officers updating their gear for the pandemic. In Surrey, B.C., Surrey Fire Service deputy chief David Burns says his first responders are wearing gowns, gloves and safety shields to protect against the virus. 

“It does look a little bit different, not much different than you would probably see in a hospital or emergency room.”

While first responders risk contracting the virus in their regular interactions with the public, they also report being subject to threats while on duty. 

“There have been a number of events where people have acted out, threatened that they are contagious or have COVID-19,” says Winnipeg Police chief Danny Smyth.

Alberta RCMP has also reported threats from coughing by members of the public who claimed to be COVID-19 positive. One person was charged with assault on a police officer.