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COVID-19 spike hits Pawtucket Fire Department with a dozen cases

Target 12

PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — Nearly 10% of Pawtucket’s firefighters have recently tested positive for the coronavirus, the Target 12 Investigators have learned.

Twelve of the department’s 152 firefighters are out of work with the virus, according to Public Information Officer Will Arboleda, who did not offer details on their respective conditions.

“The pandemic has affected our municipal and public safety employees,” Arboleda said in an email. “We assure everyone that we continue to provide the high-quality services that our residents need and deserve.”

Arboleda said three of the infected firefighters will be returning to work on Thursday. Between 33 and 38 firefighters are on duty at any given time to cover the city.

Multiple sources within the department lamented poor ventilation in city firehouses and a lack of barriers between beds in the sleeping quarters potentially contributing to the spread of the disease.

The Pawtucket Fire Department was hit with a smaller spike in early April, about a month after Rhode Island had its first case.

Three firefighters tested positive at that time and at one point, 21 of their coworkers were in quarantine due to having direct contact with the infected individuals.

Around the same time, the disease sent one Pawtucket firefighter to a hospital’s intensive care unit where he was in critical condition. That three-year veteran later recovered.

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

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