The first COVID-19 patient within the ranks of the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department was reported Monday, and dozens of first responders with the city’s fire and police departments are under home quarantine awaiting test results.
SDFD’s first positive case was announced by Mayor Kevin Faulconer during a news conferences in which he ordered the closure of beaches, parks and other open spaces because San Diegans weren’t following social distancing guidelines.
Another 29 firefighters and three lifeguards are in quarantine awaiting test results, according to SDFD Chief Colin Stowell.
"We are missing quite a few members today. We had our first positive testing amongst firefighter ranks," said Stowell. Moved this up because it was the fire chief, not police
At least four San Diego Police Department officers are showing symptoms of the new coronavirus, according to SDPD Chief David Nisleit; One works out of the department’s headquarters in East Village, two are with the Mid City Division, and the fourth is with Central Division.
A department spokesperson said 11 more SDPD employees are under self-quarantine because of possible patient contact, recent travel, or other reasons.
Jack Schaeffer, president of the San Diego Police Officers Association, said communicable diseases are one of the many threats facing police and first responders.
“Statistically we're really, really vulnerable for something like this. Not just us. Nurses, doctors, EMT’s,” Schaeffer said. “In our line of work you're coming into contact with a whole lotof people all day. So we are at an elevated risk of being exposed to anything.”
That's why during this pandemic he’s pushing to make sure his officers on the street have sanitizer, gloves, masks, and other necessary personal protective equipment.
He also wants to see sufficient testing for his officers.
“It absolutely needs to be bumped up. We're -- our county is woefully low on tests kits. Our chief’s office really had to do some negotiating just to get the few people we think might have been exposed tested,” Schaeffer said.
As of Monday, only the officers with the Mid-City Division had been tested. The officer at Central Division and the officer based at headquarters are waiting for tests.
Both the chiefs say their staffs have protective gear, but neither could say how so many of the first responders may have come in contact with the virus.