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At a time when fire departments and EMS providers across the country are dealing with significant quarantines of personnel, New Orleans Fire Department & New Orleans Emergency Medical Services are going a different route. It has decided to no longer quarantine non-symptomatic fire and EMS personnel who have been exposed to COVID-19 patients. By contrast, the DC Fire & EMS Department announced announced quarantines of scores of firefighters, paramedics and EMTs following positive test results for three firefighters. In DC, those numbers may soon surpass 10% of the department. So far, New Orleans officials know of no firefighters or EMS employees who have tested positive for the virus. The news comes in an article by Michael Isaac Stein in The Lens and quotes Superintendent Tim McConnell and EMS spokesman Jonathon Fourcade.
Exposed firefighters will now be required to wear medical masks and closely monitor themselves for any potential symptoms, including taking their temperature twice a day. All EMS workers, meanwhile, will wear masks and take their temperature regardless of exposure, Fourcade said.
Fourcade said the five EMS workers who were originally quarantined have been called back into work. He couldn’t provide an updated number of EMS workers who have been exposed.
So far, no New Orleans firefighters have tested positive for the virus, McConnell said, but 14 have come in contact with people who have. The first six were placed on two weeks of at-home quarantine. McConnell said that with the growing number of cases, the department was forced to shift its policy.
“We’re realizing that isn’t possible, it’s not realistic, we’ll run out of people,” McConnell said. “We can’t afford to have everyone out of the game. If God forbid this gets worse, but I think we know it’s going to, you’re going to see nurses and doctors who have been very exposed, just like paramedics and firefighters, at work treating people and responding. You don’t have much choice.”