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Oklahoma City Fire Department commanders are relieved to get some of the nearly 100 firefighters in coronavirus-related quarantine back on duty but are still concerned about those who have tested positive.

And the situation has become even more serious in the last two days as one of the firefighers who tested positive has now been hospitalized for COVID-19.

Quarantine

Monday, 26 of the 94 firefighters who were in quarantine because of possible coronavirus exposure returned to service.

The rest are waiting out being quarantined from their stations to see if coronavirus symptoms show up and to be tested again.

Ten firefighters have tested positive. One of those – an older firefighter – had to go to the hospital in the past two days Major Louis Marschik told Free Press. He is the Deputy PIO for OKCFD.

About half of those who have tested positive have shown symptoms and the other half are asymptomatic. Marschik did not have an estimate of when they would be able to return to duty.

CDC guidelines

Marschik said that once one of their firefighters tests positive, all those who have come into contact have to be quarantined for 14 days.

After fourteen days they have to test twice and have two negative tests before they are allowed to return to duty.

Challenges

How is the department maintaining their ability to fully respond?

Marschik identified two things that have given them the ability to respond to the challenges of having 94 firefighters unexpectedly off duty in a department of a little over 1,000 employees.

First, to meet demands of a city budget that had to adjust to revenue falls because of the pandemic, the department took two brush pumper units out of service about the same time the illnesses happened.

That gave them extra hands normally assigned to those engines to cover for the illnesses and quarantined firefighters in other stations.

Also, they have been asking off-duty firefighters to work for time and a half in the place of those who were out because of the pandemic and they have been able to fill the slots that way.

We’re hoping that number goes down because it is getting pretty tight,” said Marschik. “But, all of our fire stations are open and we’re responding to calls.”

OKCFD expects all of the firefighters currently off the schedule because of the illness to be able to return to duty as soon as they receive medical clearance.


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