GEORGETOWN, Texas - Three Georgetown firefighters are now in isolation after a person they were assisting tested positive for COVID-19.
The chief says while they take steps to protect their crews, the growing situation with COVID-19 continues to change how they operate. While the stay at home order is in place across Williamson County, first responders are still responsible for going out and keeping the area safe- which increases their risk with COVID-19
“They are in good spirits. As you can imagine this is something that can unnerve even a first responder somebody who deals with chaos to begin with,” said Georgetown fire chief John Sullivan.
Sullivan spoke over FaceTime in how members of his crew came in contact with someone who has COVID-19. “While we do our best to try and identify ahead of time which homes are at greatest risk sometimes we have situations with exposure to our firefighters,” said Sullivan.
At the time of the emergency call, the patient was not known to have COVID-19 but had mild symptoms. When the firefighters were transporting the patient to the hospital, that’s when things took a turn.
“The patient lost their ability to breathe and they had to take very advanced airway procedures with this patient and that’s when we run the greatest risk when we have the respiratory virus get into the air,” said Sullivan.
The patient a few hours later tested positive for the virus and the department was quick to isolate the firefighters who assisted. They were given the choice to quarantine at home or at the tennis center in the city, a building now repurposed for this very situation. All three chose to post up at the center in order to keep their families safe.
“In this environment, their temperatures are checked multiple times per day just to see if there is any change or symptoms,” said Sullivan.
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In an effort to combat COVID-19, Sullivan said no matter the call, from crashes to medical emergencies, they assume everyone has COVID-19. While the 911 call centers try to get as much information about who they are going out to help, Sullivan said you can never be too careful. All firefighters now respond to scenes prepared for COVID-19.
“Each one is issued a safety pouch they wear that around their waist and in that pouch, it has the essential equipment to protect them from the covid virus; it gives them a mask, it gives them goggles, it gives them a face shield, it gives them an apron, and gloves for when they are treating a patient,” said Sullivan.
Safety equipment like masks are hard to come by, according to Sullivan, so not only are they battling the virus, they are battling a lack of supplies to keep their crews safe. Anyone who wants to donate can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Williamson County is reporting 50 cases of COVID-19 along with one death. The county now has a way residents can report those not following the stay-at-home ordinance online.
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