BILLERICA, Mass. — 25 Investigates has learned that at least three Massachusetts firefighters have tested positive for COVID-19 and at least 10 Massachusetts police officers are awaiting COVID-19 test results.
Staffing could become an issue for first responders as the coronavirus continues to spread.
Richard MacKinnon is the president of the union that represents the majority of Massachusetts firefighters. He told Boston 25 News that two Billerica firefighters have tested positive for COVID-19.
He says both are home with symptoms and they will be off the job for at least 14 days. Additionally, the Worcester City Manager confirmed to Boston 25 News that a Worcester firefighter and a fire department recruit for the city both have tested positive for COVID-19.
Across the state, MacKinnon says, 157 firefighters are under quarantine for exposure.
“Our numbers have gone up, to exposed members, to quarantined members and now we have two confirmed,” MacKinnon said. “I’m certain that we’re going to have more members confirmed in the coming hours and days.”
MacKinnon says two Billerica firefighters with COVID-19 were treating the same individual when the virus was passed to them. The patient wasn’t showing flu-like symptoms at the time.
According to MacKinnon it was thought to be a routine medical call.
“We had issues where there were fall victims, there were cancer patients, routine medicals our members deal with 24/7 and we’re finding out later our members are having symptoms and getting sick,” MacKinnon said.
Police officers are also being exposed to COVID-19. The president of the Massachusetts Police Chiefs’ Association says he’s been made aware of approximately 10 suspected cases.
He says departments are preparing the possibility of staffing shortages and plans to deal with that are being drawn up.
“Not only are we looking at internal staffing and new way to schedule in a crisis, we are also talking about our neighbors with how we can help each other if we have to, in essence, lend officers or receive officers back and forth, so we could work in a more cooperative longer-term method,” said Chief Jeff Farnsworth.
The president of the firefighters’ union told Boston 25 News that firefighters and EMTs may have to treat everyone they come in contact with as a possible COVID-19 carrier. The problem is that will require massive amounts of personal protective equipment like masks, gloves, and gowns.
There continues to be a shortage of that gear across the country.
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