2 Fall River firefighters test positive for COVID-19; several waiting for results

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FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) — Two Fall River firefighters have now tested positive for COVID-19, according to Fall River Firefighters Union President Jason Burns.

The fire department reported one positive case of the virus on Thursday. It said 10 other firefighters were quarantined and being tested because of close contact they had with the positive case. 

Friday morning, test results revealed another firefighter in the department tested positive for COVID-19, and test results for five other firefighters came back negative. Burns said test results for several other firefighters are still pending and those crew members remain in quarantine at this time. 

As for the five firefighters who tested negative, Burns said they are allowed to go back to work, but they are being told to remain vigilant and watch out for any symptoms. 

Fire Chief John Lynch said the initial firefighter who tested positive hadn’t worked since last Thursday. Eyewitness News spoke with the chief via FaceTime on Thursday. 

“They [the firefighters being tested] are not to report to duty until their results come back,” Lynch said. “They are all feeling good right now.”

Lynch said another seven firefighters are unable to work right now due to underlying health conditions.

He said the department has been taking extra precautions, including regularly screening firefighters and enforcing social distancing, as well as disinfecting the station and apparatus three times a day.

“On the outside, we’re trying to minimize their contact with the public,” Lynch said. “That starts with dispatch. When there’s a call from dispatch, they’re asking more questions than they did before this crisis happened.”

If there’s a chance someone they are responding to could have the coronavirus, Lynch said they only send one first responder to investigate in order to limit the number of people who could be exposed. That first responder will also be wearing proper personal protective equipment.

“They’re going to have the goggles, the face shield, the gown, the gloves, the mask,” Lynch explained.

Lynch said his main concern right now is maintaining staffing. He said he expected some of his firefighters would get sick, but he hopes it doesn’t get worse.

“Our overtime budget right now is looking fairly good, but at the end of this crisis, it could turn out that it could be depleted,” he said.

Lynch said he continues to tell his firefighters to follow the policies and procedures in place. He said in order for them to protect the public, they need to protect themselves first.

“With the healthy firefighters we have left, we’ll still be able to man everything,” he said. “Obviously they’re gonna have to work a lot more hours, but they’re up for the task.”

This isn’t the first scare for the department, a few weeks ago one firefighter had returned from a trip to Italy but was put in military quarantine — they tested negative for the virus.

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