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Pawtucket firefighter with COVID-19 in critical condition

Target 12

PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — One of three Pawtucket firefighters who tested positive for COVID-19 is in critical condition, the Target 12 Investigators have learned.

Multiple fire department sources said the veteran firefighter is in a local Intensive Care Unit, “fighting for his life.”

Pawtucket firefighters drove by the hospital last night in department rigs with their lights flashing and sirens blaring to show support for their co-worker, who joined the department in April 2017.

According to a city spokesman, three firefighters have tested positive for the virus and at one point last week, another 21 of their coworkers were quarantined due to their direct contact with the infected men.

Mayor Donald Grebien said “all but six” of the quarantined firefighters are back on duty.

A Pawtucket firefighter who asked not to be identified said he is concerned many others on the 152-person department are going to get the virus in the coming weeks.

He said the department does not have an “infection control program” in place, and he emphasized firefighters often have compromised immune systems due to a lack of sleep, long hours of work and from responding to dozens of calls a day for residents with possible coronavirus symptoms.

The department does require firefighters to fill out a questionaire and take their temperatures before starting their shifts.

Grebien said in an emailed statement the city’s “first responders are professionally trained to protect themselves and others.”

“There are policies, procedures, and guidelines in place for all first responders in regard to disinfecting and sanitation when dealing with all types of diseases,” Grebien said.

The first confirmed case involving a Pawtucket firefighter was reported about 10 days ago, with the second two confirmed last week.

Grebien said the city is establishing “an isolation area” for firefighters to help them avoid direct contact with their loved ones.

“We’re working on one of the older churches as possibly dedicated for them,” Grebien said. “So they don’t bring it home to their families.”

As of Monday morning, there were 109 confirmed cases in Pawtucket. That is the second highest total, and per-capita rate in the state. North Providence is the highest per-capita and Providence has the highest total.

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

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