Police and Firefighters Vulnerable to COVID-19

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Emma Weaver

Office Mattew Weaver gloves and masks up as he gets ready for his day out on patrol. "I usually conduct my interviews outside and keep my distance," said Weaver.

On March 30, Arizona’s Governor Doug Ducey announced that all residents should stay home and only leave when necessary. Many businesses are temporarily closing their doors but officers are still responding to calls, and firefighters still have fires to put out, leaving first responders vulnerable to COVID-19.
“We wear masks, gloves and eye protection on every call. Sometimes we wear a disposable cover all suit. We try to take care of people in outside open areas, constantly cleaning all our gear and the fire stations multiple times a day. Changes into clean uniform clothes throughout the day, and always washing hands all day long,” said Captain Paramedic Scott Balak.
According to the Center of Disease and Control (CDC), on April 18th the U.S. has a total of 690,714 confirmed cases of COVID, with every state at least having 1 to 100 cases. Patients are flooding hospitals but for now, hospitals in Arizona are doing fine.
“Ironically, most hospitals have not seen an increase in general patients and possible COVID patients. The number of patients in house and seen each day is less by 30%-50%. However, hospitals are preparing for a surge of patients by making plans for alternate care sites which may include meeting rooms and auditoriums within their facilities,” said Tim Freund, Z-21 Buckeye SWAT Medic.
Maintaining social distancing and continuing to wash hands are recommendations the CDC has projected to slow the spread of COVID. Recently, the CDC has advocated that civilians should wear masks when going out in order to diminish the chance of spreading coronavirus.
“As more information was learned about COVID-19, I started wearing a social comfort mask when in public areas of the hospital. Because of the long incubation period of this coronavirus, I could be a carrier and failing to wear a mask could infect someone else at the hospital when I pass them in the hallway,” said Freund.
Departments have distributed supplies such as gloves, N-95 masks, and hand sanitizer in an effort to keep firefighters and police safe. But that doesn’t stop the virus from contaminating responders’ uniforms, and potentially bringing it home with them.
“I try to take everything off as soon as I get home, but the main precaution is just making sure I keep enough distance from everybody. And I have not gone into anyone’s house since I’ve been back on the road,” said Officer Mattew Weaver of the Buckeye Police Department.
On April 17th, Governor Ducey invited local governments, businesses, and more to join in lighting the state blue as a symbol of support for Arizona’s medical workers and emergency responders.