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KCK firefighter self-quarantines after possible COVID-19 exposure

Crew transported COVID-19 patient to hospital
STOCK kck fire department kckfd.jpg
Posted at 9:55 PM, Mar 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-12 22:55:33-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Kansas City, Kansas, firefighter is self-quarantining at home after possible exposure to COVID-19.

The firefighter, who is not currently experiencing any symptoms, was part of a crew that transported an individual to the hospital, who may have been infected with the coronavirus.

State and local officials confirmed Thursday at a press conference in Topeka that a man in his 70s died Tuesday in Wyandotte County, the first in Kansas or Missouri.

The man, who has not been identified, was confirmed to have COVID-19 based on tests performed after his death.

IAFF Local 6 President J.J. Simma said it’s a concern for emergency medical responders, because they don’t always have that sort of information in advance when being called to a scene.

When crews are dealing with a suspected case of COVID-19, they are equipped with gowns and masks. But if that information isn’t indicated from the initial call, those precautions are not always utilized.

Simma said some firefighters are concerned that enough precautions aren’t being taken.

They also have expressed concern about the instructions for disinfecting and materials provided for sanitizing their ambulances beyond the usual wipedowns, according to Simma.

“It’s kind of new for us,” a Kansas City, Kansas, Fire Department spokesman told 41 Action News on Thursday night.

Assistant Chief Bryan Hendin said the KCKFD is considering additional protective measures for both firefighters and patients, but the unpredictable nature of COVID-19 — including relatively mild symptoms in many cases, which often mimic the common cold, and a long incubation period — have complicated those efforts.

“Right now, I don’t think most people were prepared for this and we’re trying to catch up pretty quick,” Hendin said. “It’s not that we didn’t know about it, but it's spreading faster than we’re able to keep up with it.”

Hendin said KCKFD has drilled its staff on the signs and symptoms of coronavirus. He also confirmed that medical-grade face masks and Tyvek suits are available in suspected COVID-19 cases.

“We’ve educated our personnel on what to look out for and precautions we can take,” Hendin said. “Some of it’s a judgment call. Some of this may have to be a change in how we handle all patients.”

Hendin said Wyandotte County officials had an emergency management meeting Thursday to discuss COVID-19 and its possibly new guidelines will be forthcoming.

But for now, “We already have a protocol to wipe down units and to go out of service to disinfect when that needs to happen,” Hendin said.

Simma just wants to make sure KCKFD is doing everything it can to keep the firefighters safe.

It’s also important to keep them from unknowingly contracting COVID-19 then passing it on a patient during a transport call.

Simma said it’s KCKFD’s “duty” to protect the firefighters and the community, which is why he hopes more instruction comes soon.

He also said the IAFF Local 64 joins Wyandotte County officials in expressing condolences to the man who died Wednesday from complications involving the coronavirus.