West Chester Twp. fire chief Rick Prinz said morale was already low in his department because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, but now that six firefighters tested positive for the disease it’s even tougher.
All six of the positive tests were from one crew at Fire Station 74 on Beckett Road, and those men are all quarantined at home. Prinz said one of the men reported he was feeling unwell after he returned home from a 24-hour shift on Saturday and called his supervisor. The township had him tested.
“He’s feeling better, but he’s not out of the woods yet,” Prinz said.
The latest numbers from the Butler County General Health District report there are 369 confirmed and four probable cases and 11 deaths. The death toll rose by one since Wednesday, but no information was available on the person’s age or where they lived.
Only two of the six firefighters who have confirmed positive cases are symptomatic. The township has conducted 18 tests including the six firefighters who tested positive. Some of the tests were negative and they are awaiting results for the rest.
Because the new crew was already in the station on Saturday, and the daily disinfection had already occurred, the crew stayed at the station until shift change on Sunday. At 6 a.m. Sunday, the next shift did not go into the station, but rather staged from the safety services center until Station 74 could be disinfected. The crews were back in the station before 6 p.m. Sunday.
Prinz said having six people out at a time is not unlike summer vacation season so it doesn’t limit operations, but if the numbers rose to eight or 10 or a dozen it might be difficult to absorb the manpower loss.
Prinz said morale has already been impacted by the coronavirus — just like everybody during the lock down — but having six people test positive, knowing they could contract the virus by just doing their jobs is tough.
“They’re scared, they’re frustrated, they’re tired, they’re over it just like everybody else,” Prinz said. “Then this virus plants itself in their faces. It definitely adds to the stress.”
These cases have not impacted the level of service to the West Chester community, according to spokeswoman Barb Wilson said.
“West Chester took precautions early on ensuring personnel were equipped with and wore full personal protection equipment when coming in contact with the public, and that patients treated by our personnel also wore masks,” Wilson said. “Temperature checks are done every day and anyone displaying symptoms is directed to stay home.”
Prinz said they have been able to get the neccessary personal protective equipment (PPE) and they have received some grant funds that allowed them to buy enough to get them through the rest of this year and into 2021.
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