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2 Rhode Island firefighters quarantined after responding to crash involving driver who should have been home

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Two members of the East Greenwich Fire Department are in self-quarantine because of possible exposure to the coronavirus.

“This means that each firefighter must come off the frontlines and remain out of work until testing results are confirmed,” the firefighters union said in a tweet Thursday.

Today we had to place 2 members into a 72-hour quarantine after a possible COVID-19 exposure. This means that each firefighter must come off the frontlines and remain out of work until testing results are confirmed.

As of Thursday, East Greenwich hadn’t had any residents confirmed with COVID-19, according to the state Department of Health. But the potential exposure came when the East Greenwich Fire Department provided mutual aid for a crash in North Kingstown, according to East Greenwich Fire Chief Bernard Patenaude.

The driver in the single-vehicle crash was supposed to have been in 14-day quarantine because of exposure to somebody who had the coronavirus, according to Patenaude.

The firefighters don’t know if the driver has coronavirus, but she was symptomatic, according to Patenaude.

“We ask that you please stay home to reduce the risk to us!” the union said in another tweet.

Patenaude said, “Hopefully that person will be checked.”

The department has personal protective equipment but not enough to wear for every call and uses it where they know ahead of time that exposure is possible, according to Patenaude.

Now it’s a wait-and-see game for the firefighters, who must self-isolate for at least 72 hours, according to Patenaude. They cannot themselves be tested unless they show symptoms, Patenaude said.

If the driver is tested, the Fire Department is supposed to be notified of the results, according to Patenaude.

Losing even two firefighters has a big impact on a “small department” like East Greenwich, according to Patenaude. The department has 36 firefighters, eight per shift. It’s filling the shifts with other firefighters working overtime.

“The budget will be affected,” Patenaude said.

He says other public-safety departments share similar concerns and some have multiple members on self-quarantine.

jperry@providencejournal.com
(401) 277-7614
On Twitter: @jgregoryperry

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