More than 80 San Jose firefighters—or 10 percent of the 750 men and women comprising SJFD’s rank-and-file—were potentially exposed to COVID-19, according to city officials. And four tested positive for the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
As of today, the city reports that 16 are back at work and 52 remain on paid leave to avoid passing the illness on to other people. Of the firefighters in quarantine, two reportedly exhibit COVID-19 symptoms and await test results.
Our Dept. is large with over 700 active firefighters. We have been able to backfill to maintain operational readiness. We remain committed to our mission to protect the community through prevention & education. Follow @HealthySCC for news & information on this important topic.
— San Jose Fire Dept. (@SJFD) March 12, 2020
“As firefighters, we commit our careers and lives to serving the public in their time of need. Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic as it grows among our residents is an unprecedented challenge, and we are up to that challenge,” San Jose Fire Fighters IAFF Local 230 President Sean Kaldor told reporters in a prepared statement. “But it is also taking a tremendous toll on us as we fall ill and support our ill family members.”
Public health officials are withholding names and other details about the firefighters affected by the pandemic to comply with medical privacy laws.
In a tweet earlier today, SJFD noted that “first responders are on the front lines as we help our community through the health threat #COVID19 presents.”
The latest update by the city described the situation as “very fluid” and assured that officials are responding in accordance with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Santa Clara County Public Health Department.
“The health and safety of our employees, residents, businesses, and visitors remains the highest priority,” the notice read. “For firefighters, this includes special communicable disease response guidelines, personal protective equipment and decontamination procedures. We have ordered a deep cleaning of fire stations and the Fire Training Center. Currently, all fire stations are up and running at normal resource levels.”
By the latest count, Santa Clara County has reported 48 confirmed cases of COVID-19.