By Elizabeth F. McNamara

During a department-wide testing of all firefighters this past week, one firefighter tested positive for COVID-19. Not all firefighters have been tested yet and not all results are in on those who have been tested. The firefighter has had no symptoms and had worked with 7 other firefighters in recent days so they are all on quarantine. 

The firefighter who tested positive will be out for 14 days; the others will be tested after 6 days – a negative test means a return to work.

So far, East Greenwich has 68 confirmed coronavirus cases. While the majority of those people probably have not come into contact with EGFD firefighters, East Greenwich also has a number of medical office buildings and urgent care centers visited by people from beyond the town. 

At full complement, East Greenwich has 36 firefighters. Right now, there are three firefighter vacancies in the department and the department is also without a deputy chief. If firefighters are out for any reason – injury, illness, vacation – shifts are filled by firefighters voluntarily (the norm) or, in case of emergency, they can be compelled to stay beyond their shift. 

According to Town Manager Andrew Nota, the loss of staff is not going to affect fire service. Chief Bernie Patenaude agrees. 

“These guys are stepping up,” Patenaude said Saturday.

Nota said the department is coordinating with other departments to be prepared for such incidents. He added, “The town also has coordinated with other towns as a backup to standard mutual aid practices, should additional mutual aid or other personnel be needed in an emergency situation.”


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