After several months of avoiding an infection, officials with The Woodlands Fire Department on Friday confirmed three of the more than 140 firefighters on duty had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Another eight firefighters are in quarantine after being possibly exposed.
The Woodlands Fire Chief Palmer Buck said it is not known how the firefighters contracted the coronavirus, as it could be from responding to a call such as a vehicle accident or structure fire, or whether it was internally inside one of the mini-gym facilities housed in each fire station….Ed: or off duty as well.)
“Three personnel that have tested positive recently as part of this huge increase we’re seeing. We have 11 — three positive and eight others that are quarantined. Everybody seems to be doing well and we check on them on a daily basis, all our people in quarantine, and so everyone seems to be doing very well,” Buck said. “With quarantine, it is usually 14 days from the time of exposure. Then with the positives it is, are you feeling better and it is 72 hours fever-free without any medicine and after that they have to have two negative tests. We feel we’ll have all our people back (by July 7)…some of the quarantine people (will return to work) but the other ones (return) will depend on the negative tests.”
Township board Chairman Gordy Bunch said he learned of the positive tests on June 26, and added he and other board members are concerned for the continued safety of first responders.
“Our professional Firefighters put themselves at risk for our residents day in and day out. With the increased positive cases it was a matter of time before we started having first responders exposed and testing positive. We do need our residents and businesses to adopt the CDC recommended mitigation protocols such as social distancing, hand sanitizer and mask wearing when 6-foot distancing is not practical,” Bunch said in an email. “I am concerned for our (fire department) personnel that have tested positive and those in quarantine awaiting test results. The board will do all we can to protect our first responders and their families. Our staff will be paid during their quarantine and recovery periods. It’s the least we can do for the risks they take everyday saving our residents lives.”
The fire department has largely avoided coronavirus issues while other regional agencies in different cities and counties have seen both staff test positive for COVID-19 or in some case, had employee deaths attributed to the virus.