Late Tuesday night, the town learned 16 additional firefighters had tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total of new cases to 20. That leaves only 8 EG firefighters available to staff two trucks and two rescues. (Read more HERE about the original cases.)
East Greenwich Fire is a small department in regular times, not infrequently reliant on mutual aid help from neighboring North Kingstown, Warwick and West Warwick. Chief Bernie Patenaude has been in contact with mutual aid partners, but Town Manager Andrew Nota conceded the town’s needs will probably exceed what those other departments will be able to deliver. Nota said he’s in contact with the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency.
“There’s going to be some support that’s going to extend beyond our normal mutual aid partners,” Nota said Wednesday morning. He added, “There will be people responding to emergencies.”
Nota said he recognized many in the community might want to help – by bringing food or even volunteering to help with duties – but asked residents and others to hold off.
Because of their long shifts and overtime, firefighters live like families to some extent. In their EMT work, though they wear protective gear, they are in close contact with people who may be sick.
According to Nota, several of those who tested positive are asymptomatic. They will be tested again a couple days. None will be allowed to work until they test negative barring some kind of major emergency where, Nota said, having someone to help would be better than having no one. Stations were fully disinfected Sunday and will be again following this most recent number of positive cases.
Chief Patenaude has not tested positive – he will be on the job with the others who tested negative. Patenaude said they were doing “okay.”