By HANNAH SIEVERT
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
First responders with Bend Fire and Rescue wear masks to every call they respond to, according to Trish Connolly, the fire department’s public information officer.
If first responders are responding to a patient they suspect may have COVID based on reported symptoms, they suit up in Tyvek suits, masks, face shields and gloves.
“When we get dispatched to a call, the notes will alert us to the kind and level of protective equipment we need to wear,” Connolly said. “Typically we have a face mask and glasses. If we have a breathing call or other symptoms that indicate COVID-19, then it’s a Tyvek suit.”
But sometimes crews will work with a person who doesn’t have obvious signs of the disease or didn’t report their symptoms accurately.
First responders don’t wear full protective suits on every call because they don’t want to waste PPE.
“Even with all the precautions we take and wearing our personal protective equipment, it’s not fail-safe,” Connolly said. “Sometimes crews do get exposed.”
Connolly said that’s how a first responder contracted COVID last week. He and another first responder, who was sickened by a vacation, are the first Bend firefighters to test positive since the pandemic began.
Connolly said her agency doesn’t plan to change their protocol moving forward, because there really isn’t anything more they can do beyond the precautions they’re currently taking.
“Anybody who enters our profession realizes the level of risk we always take on any call we go on, whether there’s a pandemic or not a pandemic,” Connolly said.