North County

North County Fire Taking Extra Precautions, Firefighter Tests Positive for Coronavirus

Personnel that interact physically with patients will wear extra equipment such as N100 respirator masks and goggles, Choi told NBC 7

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NBC 7

After the North County Fire Protection District reported a firefighter and paramedic employee tested positive for the coronavirus Saturday, the district suspended of all "nonessential interactions with the public" and increased precautions during 911 calls.

A firefighter who was asymptomatic at work and later became symptomatic at home tested presumptive positive for COVID-19, according to the district.

The employee presented a low risk to the public and was quarantined at home, the district said Saturday night. The firefighter was in good health and doing well, North County Fire Capt. John Choi confirmed to NBC 7.

Investigators were still trying to determine how and where the firefighter may have contracted the coronavirus, Choi said.

"Every person that the employee made contact with has been notified and documented in the system," he said.

Citing the fluid nature of quarantine and coronavirus testing, Choi said there were no plans to return him back to work until North County Fire finishes following industry standards. The district is actively communicating with officials at the Centers for Disease Control and San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency.

The recent increased precautions are "absolutely a direct response" to the firefighter's presumptive positive test, according to Choi.

Community outreach programs such as the district's Explorer Program, ride-alongs, station tours and school visits have been suspended, Choi confirmed to NBC 7.

In addition, 911 callers will be asked more questions about recent travel to areas impacted by the coronavirus or possible symptoms, Choi said.

For 911 calls that do not require a whole unit response, North County Fire said it will only send necessary personnel such as during a lift assist.

Personnel that interact physically with patients will wear extra equipment such as N100 respirator masks and goggles, Choi told NBC 7.

Also, firefighters are known to go food shopping together in their firetrucks, but Choi said that has changed.

As of Sunday, one person from management was doing the shopping and then dropping it off at the five stations. Moving forward they will be designating one person from each station to shop while off-duty, Choi said.

"We deeply care for the safety of our community members and will still be responding to your 911 calls with the use of every precaution possible," North County Fire said.

North County Fire Protection District operates out of five stations located throughout Fallbrook and Bonsall.

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