An Amesbury firefighter received positive test results for COVID-19 on the evening of Thursday, April 9th. The firefighter has been isolating at home since being tested on Wednesday, April 8th at Anna Jacques Hospital. No other Amesbury firefighters are currently experiencing symptoms of any kind. We wish this firefighter well and a speedy recovery!
The current work schedule for Amesbury firefighters is as follows; 24 hours on, 24 hours off, 24 hours on, then 5 days off. This firefighter had just completed 5 days off when they came back to work. They were in the building for less than 15 minutes when their supervisor learned that they were experiencing a cough and sore throat, and asked them to leave the building while they made arrangements for the firefighter to get a COVID-19 test. The firefighter was able to get a test within 2 hours and then was immediately sent home to isolate.
“Due to the nature of our job and that we are seeing community spread of the Coronavirus, we knew it was only a matter of time before someone on our team would test positive for COVID-19,” stated Chief Ken Berkenbush. “These first responders are constantly put in situations where they may come in contact with someone who has COVID-19, or who is an asymptomatic carrier. We’re doing everything we can to keep our staff and everyone in the community safe. We took action quickly on this matter and continue to take precautions with our staff to keep them healthy and continuing to support the Amesbury community.”
The Amesbury Fire Department changed their protocols in March for how they respond to calls, as well as for cleaning the fire station and equipment. The regional dispatch asks all callers a series of questions to determine if they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms (fever, cough, trouble breathing) before sending a response team out. Based on the scenario, the response team will utilize full PPE (personal protective equipment) and will also ask the patient to come outside if possible rather than entering a home. They continue to provide the best care while working to limit contact with surfaces and areas that may spread the Coronavirus.
The fire station gets cleaned and sanitized top to bottom twice a day, as well as the equipment, including ambulances, fire trucks and other vehicles. The Amesbury Public Schools lent their disinfecting spray guns to our emergency responders while the schools are closed, to be used to disinfect the buildings and equipment.
“I’m grateful to all of our emergency responders for their support of our community. Especially now, they put themselves in harm’s way every day to take care of us,” stated Mayor Kassandra Gove. “I know they are taking precautions to keep themselves and all of us safe, and I am impressed with the extent of their planning and the new protocols they have implemented. They are an integral part of the health of our community and we need to do everything we can to keep them healthy and safe, which will in turn allow them to help us when we need it.”
Current CDC guidance for emergency responders is to report to work if not experiencing any symptoms. Every Amesbury firefighter takes their temperature twice per day and reports that to their supervisor, and is also required to report any symptoms.
The Amesbury Fire Department has been in communication with six area departments to share information and to take inventory of the PPE available locally. This group is working together to ensure that all of our local communities are supported, and will provide mutual aid when needed.