“None of the responding firefighters show any signs or symptoms of the COVID-19 virus and the DPH has decided not to test the four elevated risk firefighters for COVID-19 because of their lack of symptoms,” the City of Covington noted in a social media statement. “The Covington Fire Department and EMA are providing all resources for the firefighters during this time, including providing all meals.”
After four firefighters from Covington were put in quarantine for 14 days after they had contact with a patient who subsequently tested positive for COVID-19, Walton County is implementing additional measures to protect first responders whose duties could put them in direct contact with COVID-19 patients.
The City of Covington announced the quarantine for the firefighters after being notified at 10:30 p.m. on March 14, 2020, that, despite an earlier negative, the patient has now in fact tested positive for the virus.
“We performed a conference call with all public safety officials yesterday afternoon,” said Walton County Emergency Management Director Carl Morrow. “One of the topics included following the guidelines Department of Public Health has out on first responders exposure. We will follow their guidelines on this issue as I’m sure all public safety is doing.”
Morrow said also discussed was personal protective equipment and procedures while responding to emergency calls, as well as decontamination of equipment.
“Now that is a declared State of Emergency, I will have access to more personal protective equipment which I have ordered. We will have further updates on this as things get approved and cleared through all the proper channels,” Morrow said.
The Covington firefighters had responded to a call on March 11 to assist loading a patient who had some symptoms associated with COVID-19 into an ambulance. Out of an abundance of caution, the responding firefighter self-quarantined but were then advised by the Georgia Department of Public Health advised them it was not necessary as the patient in question did not have symptoms to necessitate a COVID-19 test. At that time, the firefighters ceased their voluntary quarantine. That, however, changed Saturday night when the patient was tested and did test positive and the four Covington firefighters are now back in quarantine for the balance of the 14 days from March 11.