HOUSTON - While many in our area are concerned and taking precautions to prevent contracting the coronavirus, first responders are on the front lines, working closely with those who are infected.
As more and more cases of COVID-19 are being reported in the Greater Houston area, our first responders are the ones that jump into action, putting themselves at risk for contracting the virus.
This is part of their job, but the President of the Houston Firefighters Union, Marty Lancton says he has concerns.
“Number one is to close the loop so that if firefighters have transported patients that have potentially have COVID-19 we want to ensure that the firefighters themselves are safe, that if they need the test they can get it, that there is testing, the COVID-19 test set aside specifically for Texas firefighters and first responders, and that they are at the top of the list," he said.
As of earlier this week, over 150 firefighters have self-reported that they were in contact with patients experiencing the symptoms of the virus. As a precaution these workers are self-monitoring and checking in with doctors for symptoms.
We spoke with Houston Fire Chief Sam Peña who confirms that so far only one firefighter has landed in quarantine from being exposed to a patient who may be positive for COVID-19. Peña also said over the phone that he is working with the Texas Department of Emergency Management to secure more personal protective equipment for the department, and he is also advocating to make sure tests are set aside for our first responders. Lancton agrees.
“We want to make sure that we have a healthy and safe firefighter/paramedic workforce with the best firefighters in the nation, and we don’t want them to come down with this virus as a result of what they are doing on the job, or anything for that matter, and we also don’t want them to be carriers that spread it to anybody else," he said.
So far, there is no word on when the gear or the test will be available to the department.