9 first responders test positive for COVID-19 within a week

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — More workers who provide emergency services like firefighters and emergency service workers are testing positive for COVID-19.

According to the City and County of Honolulu on Sunday, August 2, a second emergency medical service (EMS) employee tested positive for COVID-19.

The employee is stationed at Pawaa One in the Waikiki area. The city said the employee notified the supervisor after testing positive for the virus. A total of 11 paramedics and EMTs are now in quarantine.

Honolulu Emergency Services Department (HESD) said in a press release that the loss of staff to this pandemic will burden the system, though they are unsure to what extent.

HESD said personnel will be called to work overtime, back-up contractors will be called in and emergency medical technician (EMT) personnel will staff EMS ambulances to make up for staff that needs to quarantine. HESD is also decontaminating EMS units, ambulances and equipment daily.

The Honolulu Fire Department (HFD) also announced that another one of its firefighters at the Kalihi Kai fire station tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday.

“Once you have a positive, now you have to assess the rest of the crew in that particular station and then you have to assess the other two watches,” said Bobby Lee, Hawaii Firefighters Association president.

He said just one case could have major consequences.

“From there, you can have ten to 20 others that have been exposed and have to be quarantined,” said Lee. “So when you’re eliminating ten, 20 firefighters in one crack, you’re looking at potentially taking out a few crews, a few fire trucks in one swipe.”

As of Sunday, there are seven infected firefighters across three different stations. All were reported within the past week.

Lee said HFD has to shift staffing over to the stations that have a COVID-19 case, and there needs to be additional cleaning.

“They have to of course do upgraded cleaning. The fire department invested in machines to help with the cleaning process,” said Lee.

He said the equipment helps to disinfect large areas.

He said some EMS staff sometimes share the same base as HFD so they have to be extra careful.

“A handful of our stations also have EMS personnel assigned there, so we have ambulances that run out of some of our fire stations so that creates another problem too,” said Lee.

The City and County of Honolulu’s infectious disease officer is monitoring the situation with both HFD and EMS and will be continuing to advise both agencies and the staff members affected.

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