A total of five Missoula City Fire Department firefighters have now tested positive for COVID-19.
Since the detection of the first case last week, the department has been working with the Missoula City-County Health Department, and immediate testing and contact tracing involving dozens of contacts was performed.
Firefighters wear protective gear on every call for service and Chief Jeff Brandt does not believe there is an exposure risk for members of the public, according to a news release. There's also been no effect on service so far as other firefighters are covering shifts.
The firefighters who tested positive must go through two tests with negative results before returning to work. Others are being tested at the end of quarantine. Community Medical Center is providing quick-test technology to get crew members back to work as quickly as possible, and the staff at Cost Care is also helping with testing.
"We are not surprised to find a couple of additional positive tests among close contacts,” Missoula City-County Health Officer Ellen Leahy said. “That's why we quarantine and test. Aided by the Fire Department's quick and cooperative response and Community Medical Center's contribution of quick testing, additional spread is being checked as thoroughly and early as possible."
COVID-19 Incident Commander Cindy Farr is reminding the public that COVID-19 is still in the community, and we are experiencing community spread. People should keep their social circles small, be safe at work, and keep track of personal contacts for the previous 14 days.
“The Missoula Fire Department would like to reiterate that we are fully committed and prepared to continue to safely provide the same level of emergency services to the community that we always have,” said Fire Chief Brandt. “Although we are acutely aware of the unease this might cause community members, our firefighters on the front lines are properly protected to render the safest aid possible."
“The outbreak we are experiencing within the Department should serve as a critical reminder to everyone that COVID-19 is insidious, and it’s real. Protect yourselves, protect others and do the right thing to limit the spread of COVID-19," Chief Brandt concluded.