April 10 2020

Three Burlington Firefighters Test Positive for COVID-19 and Over Two Dozen Others in Self Quarantine

By: Rich Hosford

Three Burlington firefighters have tested positive for COVID-19 and over two dozen have been placed in quarantine. 


Fire Department Chief Mike Patterson told BNEWS that initially one firefighter began to show symptoms and that person, as well as 15 others who were in proximity to them, were placed in self-isolation for 14 days. Subsequently two more members tested positive for the virus. 


Patterson added that all three members who tested positive are on the road to recovery and that they expect the members who were placed in quarantine as a precaution will return to duty next week. 


“We’re due to get back our people on quarantine in the early part of next week,”  he said. “It primarily affected one of our shifts but we were able to maintain our staffing levels by filling vacancies. We’re looking forward to getting these people back as quickly as we can.” 


He explained that when someone tests positive they are removed from all contact with other people. 


“When you test positive you are basically placed in isolation,” he said. “You have to separate yourself from your family members and everyone in general until your symptoms diminish.” 


Anyone who tests positive must be out of work for a minimum of seven days and is not allowed to return until they are symptom-free for at least three days and pass a screening by the Board of Health in their hometown. 


“Recovery is defined as resolution of fever without the use of any fever reducing medications,” he explained. “And there must be an improvement in their respiratory symptoms such as a cough or a shortness of breath.” 


Patterson said that since the outbreak began the department has taken extra precautions, including the wearing of N95 masks both in the station and when on calls and limiting the number of members who have direct contact with patients. They have moved some members and apparatus to Station 2 to allow for greater distancing and are checking everyone’s temperature when they arrive at work. 


“We encourage everyone to practice distancing and good hygiene,” he said. 


Dispatch is also asking everyone who calls a series of questions to try and determine if either the caller or the person the caller is reporting have symptoms. He asks that if anyone has to call 911 to be up front about any symptoms they may have to help them respond appropriately. 


“If people can do so they are asked to meet outside the house so our people don’t have to enter the house,” he explained. “If we do have to enter the house it will be with the absolute minimum number of personnel possible in full protective gear. Our dispatchers are doing a great job and it makes a big difference.”  


Despite all the personnel out, Patterson said the department has been able to maintain its usual level of service. 


“When the bell or 911 rings we continue to provide service,” he said. “We haven’t skipped a beat as far as delivery of service. Normal day to day business continues.” 


Finally, the chief advises the public to continue the best practices to stop the spread of the virus. 


“My message to the public is to continue to distance yourself, wear masks if you have to go out and limit your trips out in public,” he said.


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