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Fire department using extra precautions

April 1, 2020
By NATHAN MAYBERG (nmayberg@breezenewspapers.com) , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

The Fort Myers Beach Fire Department is on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. Fort Myers Beach Fire Chief Mathew Love can't confirm whether department medics have responded to anybody who later tested positive for COVID-19 but said they have treated a "fair amount of people" who displayed symptoms associated with the virus.

The department has taken a number of precautionary measures recently as part of a new approach to dealing with the public under the current circumstances, Executive Assistant Fire Chief Ronald Martin said.

The town provided protective gear before the pandemic and firefighters are now using it. Among the protection they carry are surgical gowns, surgical masks, N95 masks, and eye protection. They are "being used quite frequently," Love said. Martin said the department's staff is following CDC recommended guidelines regarding social distancing.

The department is screening callers more extensively to see if there are risks for which paramedics need to be prepared. The county's emergency services are also doing more detailed screenings during emergency calls. Even in a case where somebody sprains an ankle, the town's medics are exercising caution when approaching somebody to see if they may have coronavirus symptoms and if they need to put on protective clothing.

Love wrote a letter on March 25 to Town Manager Roger Hernstadt applauding the town council's actions in closing the beach.

"It's had a dramatic effect on decreasing" the number of calls the department responds to, he said. In the letter to Hernstadt, Love said "the less total people on the island, the less emergency incidents we respond to, the less potential for exposure of emergency responders, and finally the less we consume the personal protective equipment running low nationwide."

Love said there is still work to do. "We still need to get the message out to folks to stay home."

The more people go out, the more they are at risk for injuring themselves during a walk or a jog, he said. If that happens, paramedics will need to respond which puts them in danger of coming into contact with somebody who has COVID-1 and the less chance for people to get exposed to the health care system, which is currently under stress from the pandemic.

"In normal times, that's what we're here for," Love said. Presently, during the current state of emergency, fire stations are closed to the public. The department has also stopped its scheduled educational programs.

 
 

 

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