More than 200 Jacksonville firefighters are now in self-quarantine under contact guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention after two Jacksonville Fire Rescue Department firefighters tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week.
Mayor Lenny Curry announced the quarantines, saying JFRD Fire Chief Keith Powers briefed him about the 214 firefighters quarantining. As of Friday evening, 14 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, Curry said. First Coast News spoke to Randy Wyse, president of the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters. He said he expects fire stations to practice more social distancing measure in their stations and wear masks while on duty.
Wyse said some firefighters will be returning to work as early as next week, and that he does not expect any changes to response times. Public safety will remain a priority, he said.
“I’ve been closely monitoring the health and safety of our firefighters since Chief Powers first informed me earlier this week that two had tested positive for the coronavirus,” Curry said in a statement sent to First Coast News. “Our ability to protect and serve the citizens of Jacksonville is reliant on keeping our first responders healthy. This means following CDC guidelines in the event they come in contact with anyone who tests positive for COVID-19.”
The mayor pointed out his emergency legislation passed by city council in April to allow recently retired firefighters to return to work to assist with the pandemic. Curry said the city is grateful to have that resource and that leaders are confident it will allow them to protect first responders and continue to provide services to all citizens.
But, Wyse told First Coast News he doesn’t expect any retired firefighters to be called in. That would be a last-resort option.
The re-hires allow former Jacksonville Sheriff’s Officers and correctional officers as well as retired JFRD employees to work for the city without jeopardizing their retirement or pension plans.