WARREN — Three Trumbull County 911 dispatchers have contracted COVID-19 in the last week.
This is putting a strain on staffing the center, although it hasn’t stopped the center from taking emergency calls, its director said.
The department recently hired six new dispatchers, but because the job is so specialized, training is ongoing, said director Ernie Cook.
Cook said the office conducted contact tracing within the center after the positive cases and asked employees to get tested for the virus. Most of the testing has come back negative, he said.
An employee filed a union grievance that includes complaints about working conditions at the center, such as poor air circulation. A hearing is expected to be scheduled some time next week, Cook said, but it is difficult to schedule the hearings because of the pandemic.
To help mitigate the spread of the virus, Cook said he had high-capacity HEPA air filters installed at the center early on in the pandemic and recently obtained N95 masks for the dispatchers.
Employees also are encouraged to stay at home at the slightest hint of a “sniffle,” and body temperatures are taken at the beginning of the shifts and throughout the shifts, he said. Work stations are sanitized at the end of each shift, and aerosol sanitization is conducted in the building regularly, he said.
The center spent $27,000 to move two of the work stations away from the main floor to make it easier to maintain social distancing, Cook said.
“We are doing all of the best practices,” Cook said.
Cook said he is working on setting up a remote dispatching center to have as a backup in case anything happens that would necessitate moving operations.
“We are trying to keep people healthy and answer the phones, and we haven’t missed a single 911 call,” Cook said.
With people out sick, scheduling has been an issue, Cook said, but some employees have stepped up to fill in the shifts.
“We are getting hourly reports and updates and, fortunately, no one is terribly sick, and the people who are sick are starting to feel better,” Cook said.