Twelve Springfield (IL) Fire Department personnel, including Chief Allen Reyne, have tested positive for COVID-19…and in Michigan, a firehouse has been shut down.
Thirty-seven Springfield firefighters in all are currently quarantined because of the virus.
Reyne has been Mayor Jim Langfelder’s point person for the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to a news release from the city, the majority of firefighters came into contact with an individual who was asymptomatic at an outside gathering, not on work time. The individual was not a Springfield firefighter.
Since receiving test results, any employee who was in direct contact with patient zero, or any firefighter who has tested positive, has been directed to have a COVID-19 test and asked to follow the guidance provided by the testing facility, including quarantining.
The outbreak has had no impact on their operations other than an increase in overtime. There are 215 firefighters with the department.
“This is our worst case scenario, there’s no doubt,” Reyne said by phone Monday. “It shows how pretty quickly this can spread.
“When you have that high of a number from your department quarantined, obviously the primary concern is for their well-being. You want to make sure they’re healthy and able to come to work. Secondly, we have to have firefighters respond to emergencies. Those two things sometimes conflict.
“It’s a real challenge right now.”
Reyne said it is “inherently difficult” for firefighters to socially distance, especially when they are giving CPR, crawling into a burning building or packed into a fire engine together.
Gail O’Neill, director of the Sangamon County Department of Public Health, who was in contact with Reyne about the outbreak, agreed.
“It’s difficult,” O’Neill said. ”(The firefighters) may be saving somebody else, but something happens with their own protection. It’s hard to tell. There’s so much infection in the community.”
Reyne said as of Oct. 29 there were no firefighters quarantined.
“We were always worried about it,” Reyne admitted. “Our members did a good job keeping it out of the firehouse. We went months without a single positive.”
Reyne said he was exposed on Oct. 29 when was having dinner with two other people, one of whom was a Springfield firefighter.
Reyne said he went home from work not feeling well on Monday, but not thinking he had COVID-19. Reyne added he immediately isolated himself from family members.
Reyne, 50, felt fatigued and didn’t have much of an appetite leading him to get tested on Wednesday. He learned his test result Saturday.
“For a couple of days, I certainly didn’t want to get up to do anything and just laid in bed,” Reyne said.
Reyne said he started feeling better over the weekend and Monday was feeling “mostly normal,” except for a lingering cough.
″(The firefighters have been) checking in on one another. It’s a crazy virus because everybody has different symptoms. Some guys are symptom-free.
“There are two cautionary tales. If you’re not feeling well, remove yourself immediately. Just stay away from people and then follow it up with a test.”
Positive tests for COVID-19 among public safety workers prompted closures of facilities in Macomb and Oakland counties on Monday, officials said.
Most recently, positive tests among some of Troy’s firefighters prompted the closure of one of the city’s six fire stations, officials said Monday.
Fire Chief Dave Roberts stressed the closure of the station should not impact service to either residents or businesses and said any calls would be handled by other fire stations. About 30 firefighters at the closed fire hall are under quarantine.
Fire Chief Dave Roberts
“A few of our volunteer members at one of our six stations have recently tested positive for COVID-19,” Roberts said in a release. “As a precaution, we have decided to temporarily close that particular station for the next 14 days.”
Roberts said no personnel from the other five stations have been affected. The release did not identify which station was closed, and fire officials would not say which one it is.