FRAMINGHAM – The Framingham Fire Department has responded to 88 confirmed COVID-19 medical calls since March 2, said Framingham Fire Chief Michael Dutcher to the City Council’s subcommittee on Public Health & safety on Wednesday night, April 15.
And almost another 100 medical calls fall in the category of COVID-19, with high fever, difficulty of breathing and shortness of breath, the Fire Chief told the City Council subcommittee.
The good news is all the of the Framingham Fire Department employees have tested negative for COVID-19.
The Fire Chief said he has one firefighter in a self-quarantine currently, due to potential exposure from family not work-related, as of April 15.
Over the last 5 weeks, the Chief said 26 members of the department have been in a quarantine due to COVID-19.
“Some have lasted a couple of days and some a little longer than that” eight or nine days, he said.
Three Framingham Firefighters were potentially exposed to the coronavirus on Sunday night, March 15, when responding to a medical call.
The fire station in Nobscot was cleaned, and one ambulance was taken out of service temporarily for cleaning, after the incident. All three firefighters tested negative.
A few weeks ago, the Chief began to require all department members wear a mask while on duty, even in the fire stations.
“We tend to live in close quarters,” said the Chief. “We need to be safe.”
“In the five week that this has hit us, just under 200 calls have been COVID-related,” said the Fire Chief.
“That has been about 30% of our overall (medical) call volume,” said Chief Dutcher.
“We are very cognizant and very aware on all of our calls,” said Chief Dutcher.
“The patients we do go to are very sick,” said Chief Dutcher. “Our hazard has really increased on these sorts of calls.”
The Chief said overall the department’s calls are down compared to the last four years.
Chief Dutcher said motor vehicle crashes are down, because obviously less people are on the road.
“A big component is people are staying at home,” he told the subcommittee.
The Chief said a couple of weeks ago, the department had its “biggest scare” at fire station 1 (the Route 9 station), which hosts the dispatch center for the department.
The Chief said a firefighter was not feeling great in the middle of the night. He interacted with the whole station.
We had prepared for a situation like this, explained Dutcher to the City Council subcommittee. He said the station was cleaned. Staff was re-assigned. And this is the reason why so many firefighters were quarantined, said the Chief.
“Because of the planning and the professionalism of the firefighters, we didn’t skip a beat that day,” said Chief Dutcher. “Eight hours later, we were back in our station. It was cleaned, and we were able to do our job.”
The Chief told the subcommittee it is important for people to practice social distancing, wear masks, do good personal hygiene, wash hands often, and not touching their face.