Archive for category CORONAVIRUS DISEASE 2019 (COVID-19)

Chicago Fire Department news

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The Chicago fire academy is closed until further notice after an apparent COVID-19 outbreak impacting both students and instructors. Officials said they are working to determine the source of the outbreak at the Robert J. Quinn Fire Academy, located at 558 W. De Koven Street in the South Loop. It’s not clear how long the building will be shut down. Officials have not said exactly how many people tested positive for COVID-19, but there are multiple cases. Those individuals are now in isolation and none require hospitalization. For now, the other trainees will participate in remote instruction. The facility will undergo a deep cleaning. 

Just last week, the department released a public service message urging people to take the virus seriously by wearing masks. Since the beginning of the pandemic, officials said there have been close to 300 cases of COVID-19 within the Chicago Fire Department. The virus took the lives of two department veterans, firefighters Mario Araujo and Edward Singleton. Both died in April.

Full statement from Chicago Fire Department spokesperson Larry Langford:

“The health and safety of Chicago’s firefighters, paramedics and recruits are our utmost priority. That is why following multiple confirmed COVID-19 cases at the Robert J. Quinn Fire Academy, the Department has temporarily suspended training at the facility while we work to thoroughly clean and disinfect the entire facility. Furthermore, the Department will clean all employees’ work areas and any vehicles and equipment used. To prevent the spread of COVID-19 in all facilities, the Department continues to work with the Chicago Department of Public Health (CPDH) to ensure social distancing and public health guidelines are strictly enforced and that all individuals abide by them. The current class of recruits will continue their training through remote learning. All individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 will remain in isolation while any close contacts will quarantine. No individuals who have tested positive have required hospitalization, and we will continue to monitor their condition. The Department will provide an update when training resumes in the facility.”

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Mundelein Fire Department news

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Jet Blue, New York public transit, and others are using UV Light technology to help sanitize their spaces. UV technology is now part of the plan to slow the spread of COVID-19 and other illnesses at the Mundelein Fire Department. They’ve installed a UV air disinfectant device in their bunk room that uses a fan to shoot air through intense ultraviolet light.  “We can’t just spray chemicals in a room and leave for three hours. We have to be able to live in these spaces. So, the UV technology was essential,” said Mundelein Fire Department Deputy Chief Darren Brents.

According to the CDC, the light works on the molecular level. It can damage germ DNA, making the germ itself inert. UV technology isn’t a replacement for surface cleaning, but part of a multi-pronged approach to stop the spread of the virus.

From the Mundelein Fire Department Facebook page:

On Friday, Mark Rivera from ABC7 came to Mundelein to discuss the steps we have taken to protect our firefighters during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our mitigation strategy involved equipping our personnel with the proper PPE, surface disinfection, and addressing air quality.

Air quality and the spread of viruses, mold, bacteria, and other pathogens in the air we breathe have not been publicly discussed. Recently, a chorus of scientists have concluded these and other viruses (influenzas, measles, etc.) are aerosolized and can remain in the air and travel significant distances. We proactively addressed this issue with the purchase of the Zone360 UV-C device to protect our first responders.

ABC7 reporter Mark Rivera graciously came to Mundelein to share our story with our community to help raise awareness.

tv interview in fire station

Mundelein FD photo

UV technology for prevention of the spread of germs in the fire house in bunk room

Mundelein FD photo

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Fire service news – Coronavirus COVID-19

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U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood and U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos called on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to temporarily expand the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant Program to include firefighters already on payroll. Currently, the SAFER program has a requirement that funding be used only to hire new firefighters at the equivalent cost of a first-year firefighter, which normally would assist a station getting up to required staffing levels with fresh talent.

The members also noted that Congress has given FEMA the authority to waive certain FY19 SAFER requirements, as has memoranda provided by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget.

“As you consider additional waivers, we encourage you to waive the FY19 SAFER grant spending requirement on new firefighter hires only,” according to their letter.

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Fire service news – Coronavirus COVID-19

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Cook County Board commissioners voted 9-7 with one member abstaining from a resolution which would direct the Cook County Department of Public Health to disclose locations of those testing positive for the coronavirus with 911 dispatchers in suburban Cook County every day for two months.

While the measure is only a recommendation, the Cook County Department of Public Health will follow the address-sharing practice because of the board’s instructions. That’s in spite of the public health co-administrator’s warning before the vote that the practice was inadequate and dangerous for both citizens and first responders emergency personnel.

The county board president said that it guaranteed the address-sharing plan would contribute to the systemic racism that black and Latino communities suffer. One commissioner said the resolution could backfire, as there are scores of residents who may have not sought testing because they are asymptomatic and that every individual that law enforcement comes into contact with should be treated as a COVID-19-positive case. Her position was supported by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The measure comes after a legal challenge to instate address-sharing was shot down. Earlier this month, a northwest suburban 911 dispatch system failed in its bid to force Cook County to share addresses of coronavirus patients on Friday after a judge denied its temporary restraining order. But the judge did grant the Village of Lincolnwood’s motion to intervene and set another hearing for early June.

The Illinois attorney general advised that address-sharing is permissible due to a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) exception, but he did not go so far as to recommend the practice.

Much of the Thursday board meeting’s public comment section was centered around the resolution, with suburban villages, police departments, and fire departments urging the need for address-sharing amid PPE shortages, and dozens of individuals and civil rights groups, including the Illinois chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, saying it would lead to harm.

The board also took the opportunity to censure President Donald Trump’s administration for what they described as a failure to deliver enough PPE for first responders emergency personnel that they said led them to the controversial address-sharing proposal.

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Fire service news – Coronavirus COVID-19, Elgin Fire Department

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A third Elgin firefighter tested positive for COVID-19. One firefighter is under quarantine at a hotel where the city reserved a block of rooms for personnel that allows them to keep their family safe from any possible exposure.  Two other firefighters chose to isolate at home.

Over the last few weeks, the Elgin Fire Department has had seven firefighters who’ve been isolated due to possible exposure to COVID-19. Only those who showed symptoms were tested.  The test results are available within 24 hours, and the positive cases came back April 23, April 30, and May 1.

The fire department has notified its employees and has recommended that they stay home should they begin to feel ill. Shifts are being covered with overtime if needed.

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Fire service news – Coronavirus COVID-19

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Recently published results of a survey of EMS providers from across the U.S. revealed inconsistent protocols, policies, and training related to COVID-19 response could be contributing to the spread of the virus.  

Researchers published preliminary results of their study this week, with the goal to investigate available resources, PPE availability, sanitation practices, institutional policies and opinions of EMS providers through a self-reported survey.  

The results, which reflect provider responses from all 50 states, revealed: 

  • Limited access to N95 respirators 
  • Little or no benefits for COVID-19-related work 
  • No institutional policy on social distancing practices 

For those who did report having access to N95 respirators, 31% reported using the same mask for one week or longer.   In addition, the survey revealed that one-third of those responding were unclear as to when a COVID-19 patient is infectious, as well as a lack of decontamination consistency across agencies.  

The research team concluded from the study that the industry would benefit from a nationally established COVID-19 EMS response protocol, as well as further investigation on whether current EMS practices are contributing to the spread of infection. 

For information about COVID-19 policies and protocols that can be adapted for any fire or EMS department, visit the Lexipol COVID-19 Learning and Policy Center.  

Read the full results of the study here.  


Fire service news – Coronavirus COVID-19

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Some Chicago firefighters and paramedics will now be tested for coronavirus before and after work at specific firehouses. It begins today at two firehouses.

At least nine Chicago Fire Department members who work at the firehouse at 71st and Parnell have tested positive for COVID-19, and there may be more. “Hot” houses like that one are prompting the city and CFD to start shift change testing for the illness as a way to keep it from spreading as department cases keep rising. Several firehouses fit the “hot” criteria, including those at O’Hare and Midway. The firefighters’ union bought thermometers for every firehouse recently as an added symptom check layer.

In addition to firehouse testing, effective this week, all CFD firefighters are required to wear masks in rigs and firehouses.

Currently 151 department members have tested positive for COVID-19. 82 of those have recovered and are back to work, and 31 members are in self-quarantine.

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Fire service news – Coronavirus COVID-19 in Cicero

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Suburban Cicero has seen one of the highest COVID-19 infection rates in Cook County, reporting 844 confirmed cases Monday with 18 deaths. 

“I think it’s due to the demographics of the town, so many people in such a close proximity, so many people living in a three-flat and things like that,” said Cicero Fire Chief Dominick Buscemi, who is part of the town’s emergency committee handling the pandemic response. 

A huge chunk of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Cicero have occurred at one nursing home, City View Multicare Center on Cermak Road. The facility has seen over 200 confirmed cases, with eight deaths.  Its handling of the coronavirus has drawn the ire of local officials, and the facility is now under investigation by the Illinois Department of Public Health. 

“We’re trying to get a handle on it, we’re trying to figure out what’s happening [there],” Buscemi said. “At the onset of the pandemic, I don’t think they were taking the precautions they needed to take. I don’t think that the PPE (personal protective equipment) was being work by the staff members. I don’t think residents were being secluded.” 

Buscemi says the town has served the nursing home with several citations so far. 

Cicero has also issued five executive orders targeting COVID-19 on top of statewide measures. In mid-April, it mandated that masks be worn by everyone going into public buildings, like grocery stores. 

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Fire service news – Coronavirus COVID-19

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The Northwest Central Dispatch System plans to go to court Friday to try to get the Cook County Department of Public Health to release information on confirmed COVID-19 patients in the Northwest suburbs. The anticipated filing of a temporary restraining order in Cook County circuit court follows an unsuccessful lobbying effort by the Arlington Heights-based dispatch system and elected officials in some of its 11 member communities.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle turned down the request, while a resolution to provide addresses of COVID-19 patients sponsored by six county board members was sent to committee Thursday. That resolution earned letters of support from mayors and village presidents in Arlington Heights, Buffalo Grove, Palatine, and Wheeling.

Officials from the dispatch system, which answers 911 calls for police and fire departments in the Northwest suburbs, argue that having information on coronavirus patients would increase the safety precautions paramedics, police, and firefighters take before they arrive at emergency calls. Dispatchers planned to enter the information into their computer-aided dispatch system as premise warnings when sending police or fire to an address, but vowed to remove the information after an agreed amount of time.

“My personal position had been that we should follow Illinois Department of Public Health guidelines,” Preckwinkle said. “My understanding is that those guidelines suggested that our first responders emergency personnel should assume that any residence that they go to is possibly infected by COVID-19 since 80% of the people who get the disease have either mild symptoms or are asymptomatic.”

That’s a similar view to that of the McHenry County Health Department, which declined to provide names of COVID-19 patients until the McHenry County sheriff and four police departments sued earlier this month. A judge ruled that the names should be provided but must be kept confidential and purged from the 911 dispatch system seven days after the health department deems a patient is no longer contagious.

Lake County Health Department officials also have opted not to provide patient information to police and first responders firefighters.

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Fire service news – Coronavirus COVID-19 (more)

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A funeral was held Wednesday for Edward Singleton, the second Chicago firefighter to die from coronavirus complications. He passed away April 14 at age 55 and leaves behind a wife and two adult children.

While a traditional funeral service is not possible during these times, immediate family was allowed inside the funeral home while friends and fellow firefighters remained in their parked vehicles outside. A live stream allowed loved ones to join in mourning. Following the service, a procession accompanied Singleton’s hearse to Mt. Hope Cemetery.

As of today, 130 Chicago firefighters have been diagnosed with COVID-19. 

Both Chicago Fire Department deaths were declared in the line-of-duty, so their families could access additional benefits.

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