By Elizabeth F. McNamara

When two EG firefighters were called to help at a car accident in North Kingstown Thursday, they weren’t thinking COVID-19. They learned too late a woman treated at the scene was supposed to be self-quarantining at home after she was exposed to someone with the coronavirus. She also had some symptoms, according to EG Fire Chief Bernie Patenaude. 

By the time the firefighters learned of her exposure, they had already treated her without wearing the necessary personal protective equipment (mask, eye shield, gown).

The woman had not been tested for COVID-19. Like most Rhode Islanders who have experienced symptoms, she was told to stay at home. Because of a shortage, tests in Rhode Island have been reserved for those needing hospital care, health care workers, and those living or working in places like nursing homes. Gov. Gina Raimondo said Friday she hopes the state will greatly expand testing starting next week. 

It’s unclear whether or not the woman in the car accident has been tested. Chief Patenaude said if she is not tested, the two firefighters will stay off the job for 72 hours and monitor their temperature. If after 72 hours, they have not had fevers or any symptoms, they will return to work. 

The urgent care clinic at Coastal Medical, 1598 South County Trail, has set up a tent to receive possible coronavirus patients who have been told by a medical professional to seek help.

Patenaude said all the firefighters were checking their temperatures twice each shift, as well as reviewing a checklist of possible symptoms. 

He said EGFD has transported one patient they know of who tested positive, a woman who went to the Coastal Medical Urgent Care clinic on South County Trail. But, because they knew they were dealing with someone with possible COVID-19, they wore their protective gear. (The man was not from East Greenwich.)

If you think you have COVID-19, the state Dept. of Health says to stay home and try to stay away from others in your home (I know, that’s hard to do for most of us). If you find you are having difficulty breathing, call your doctor or an urgent care clinic. DO NOT head out to see a doctor or go to a clinic without calling first. 

If you are told you must self-quarantine, stay home. Do not go to stores. Do not go for a drive. If you need help with groceries or other essentials, call the town at (401) 886-8669.


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