The COVID-19 outbreak within the Turlock Fire Department has now grown to 10 firefighters.
Interim Turlock Fire Chief said that all shifts remain filled, mainly due to the dedication to the job and the community from the department staff.
"The employees are working overtime to cover shifts and have been very easy to work with as they want what is best for the city,” Carlson said. “They have voluntarily canceled vacations and time off to fill the gaps caused by the virus."
The fire department has 42 firefighter positions allocated, but because of recent departures only 38 of those positions are currently filled. Taking out the 10 who have tested positive, the fire department only has 28 firefighters to work shifts. Carlson said both himself and the Fire Marshal are also responding to calls “to bolster the numbers when needed.”
The department assigns 13 personnel per shift and a shift is 24 hours. A shift cycle is 48 hours.
The COVID-19 outbreak appears to have originated during one particular shift and involves two stations.
On Sunday two firefighters called in sick with symptoms consistent with COVID-19. That triggered testing for multiple firefighters. By Tuesday, eight had tested positive and were off shift. By Thursday the number had grown to 10.
The fire department responds to multiple COVID-19 calls each day and use PPEs. Carlson said that the recent developments will not stop the fire department from responding to COVID-19 calls.
"Firefighters do wear all available PPE on each call but there is a lot of contact. This is the nature of our jobs."
Carlson said four of the firefighters are asymptomatic, five have mild symptoms and one has just slightly more pronounced symptoms. Generally speaking, Carlson said all those who have tested positive are doing well.
The Stanislaus County Health Services Agency, using guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said a person is clear “to return to work 10 days after symptom onset (10 days after test date if the person never had symptoms) and at least one day after recovery. Recovery is defined as fever is gone without using any fever-reducing medications such as Tylenol, and other symptoms of COVID are improving.”
The SCHSA said this does not apply to people who are severely immunocompromised and those who have been severely ill with COVID-19.
“Both groups of people can take longer than 10 days to become non-infectious. People who are severely immunocompromised and those who have been severely ill with COVID-19 are cleared to return to work 20 days after symptom onset (20 days after test date if the person never had symptoms) and at least one day after recovery.”
The fire department adheres to these CDC guidelines.
TFD does have agreements with multiple neighboring fire departments to provide mutual aid, so those agencies could be called upon if needed for a particular incident.