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3 Pawtucket firefighters now have COVID-19, 21 quarantined


PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — Three Pawtucket firefighters have now tested positive for COVID-19, which forced 21 of their co-workers into quarantine this past week due to their direct contact with the infected, the Target 12 Investigators have learned.

At its worst last week, 21 firefighters, about 16% of the city’s 152 person department, were out. About 100 of the total workforce make daily runs. Several of the emergency workers who were on quarantine have returned to work, but eight remain in self-quarantine as of Saturday, not including the three who have tested positive.

Mayor Donald Grebien, who credited the Fire Department for its dedication during the crisis, said at this point the shortage is being covered by overtime.

“It is not dire yet,” Grebien said. “They’re working really hard for us. I can’t say enough.”

A Pawtucket firefighter who asked not to be identified said the department is making dozens of runs a day for people who have potential COVID-19 symptoms.

The firefighter said he is concerned about the virus spreading through the department due to a lack of an “infection-control plan.”

“I really believe most of us are going to get it. There’s no plan and we’re more susceptible,” he said. “Firefighters routinely operate imunocompromised from a lack of sleep, coming into contact with sick people, long shifts due to overtime.”

The first case involving a Pawtucket firefighter was reported about a week ago. The second two were confirmed this week.

As of Saturday morning, there 91 confirmed cases in Pawtucket, including 45 at Oak Hill Nursing Center. Per capita, the city of about 72,000 has the second highest number of cases in the state.

Send tips to Target 12 Investigator Walt Buteau at wbuteau@wpri.com and follow him on Twitter @wbuteau.

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