Recognizing not only the importance of first responders on our state’s ability to respond to COVID-19 cases, but also the fact that first responders are also susceptible to it and could unwittingly spread it – Florida Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis received assurances from Florida’s Division of Emergency Management Chief Jared Moskowitz this week that first responders – including police officers and firefighters, will get first priority for COVID-19 testing.
Patronis held a call with the Executive Board of the Florida Fire Chiefs Association to discuss mitigation and containment strategies for COVID-19, who voiced their concerns.
“On today’s call, there was also a discussion regarding the availability of equipment and prioritizing first responders for COVID-19 testing,” Patronis said. “That’s why after talking to fire chiefs, I spoke to Division of Emergency Management (DEM) Director Jared Moskowitz who assured me first responders will be prioritized for testing and protective equipment.
“I want to thank Director Moskowitz for being proactive in protecting our men and women on the front lines. Many of these heroes are responding to infectious disease calls, so from a public health stand point, it’s vital that Florida’s first responders have what they need to protect themselves and their team members. If first responders go unprotected or don’t know they have COVID-19, entire fire houses could go-offline which puts our communities in a vulnerable state.”
Patronis says that while much of the attention has been focused on protecting doctors, nurses, emergency medical services that operate in the health care space, the time is coming as we move away from preparedness activities and into the containment and mitigation of the virus, when much more will be required of Florida’s first responders.
As health care services grow throughout Florida becomes further strained, Florida firefighters may be used to supplement health care and logistical operations. According to Patronis, the need for more beds, more supplies and more personnel with medical experience will be needed as cases of COVID-19 continue to grow.
“Although drive-thru testing has not been fully deployed on a statewide level, should this policy be executed, firefighters and other first responders will be needed. Whether helping with traffic, triaging individuals with fevers versus individuals who are not symptomatic, or supporting any other of the many missions that are needed for a massive undertaking, Florida first responders must be prepared for any containment and mitigation strategies that may require their expertise,” said Patronis.
Florida’s first responders ability to contain and mitigate coronavirus in the state will require strong communication with hospitals. Unfortunately, fires and other types of emergencies won’t go away while we’re dealing with the spread of the virus.