HONOLULU (KHON2)– Six Honolulu firefighters have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past two days, five from the Hawaii Kai fire station, one from Moanalua. The president of the union says the fire department is not doing enough to protect its firefighters.
The president of the Hawaii Fire Fighters Association, Bobby Lee, says firefighters have been complaining to the union for months that there aren’t enough safety protocols in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at fire stations. If that doesn’t change, he says public safety will be even more at risk.
Lee says two cases were initially reported Thursday at Hawaii Kai which then grew to five, and then one at Moanalua. He says it’s also troubling because firefighters who’ve had close contact are placed on quarantine.
“When you have to quarantine a number of firefighters, now you have to find replacements. And that’s when it becomes a problem because when you can’t find firefighters to replace them. Then you end up shutting down trucks or shutting down stations,” said Lee.
Two firefighters from the Kalihi Uka station were also infected in April, and Lee says HFD should have taken more precautions then. He adds that the department should not be sending firefighters home to quarantine, but should have a separate facility.
“Some people have personal challenges at home taking care of elderly they don’t want to go home and quarantine and potentially expose family members,” said Lee.
He says firefighters have to live together at the station when on duty so it’s easy to spread the virus. But he says even simple precautions aren’t being mandated.
“We don’t have dishwashers to sterilize stuff. Maybe our firefighters should be using paper plates, disposable stuff, things like that, so you limit the spread within the house,” said Lee.
A spokesman for HFD says there are 40 firefighters now under quarantine but there is no concern with not having enough to fill the shifts. Lee says there should be a concern especially if more firefighters get infected. HFD says those who don’t feel safe to quarantine at home can take advantage of the health department’s hotel program. As for using paper plates, the spokesman says firefighters are allowed to use them.
The Hawaii Fire Fighters Association says it is looking into canceling a test that will take place August 1, which involves 250 people.
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