ABILENE, Texas —
According to a Sunday press release from the City of Abilene, 36 Abilene Fire Department firefighters have tested positive for COVID-19 during the seventy-two hours prior to the release. Emergency Services deputy Fire Chief Michael Burden says that number is now at forty-three.
Seven additional members of the department are in self-quarantine awaiting test results.
Among the positive cases is Fire Chief Cande Flores.
According to Burden, the Fire Department is working at full capacity and responding to all emergency calls.
"Right now, we have 12 fire trucks which is our normal staffing, all staffed with 4 personnel, 48 firefighters, 1 Battalion Chief on duty. And this is our plan total of 49 personnel through this entire event," said Burden.
In accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations, all personnel who have tested positive will self-isolate until cleared to return to work by the local health authority.
The release stated," The City of Abilene is thankful to the AFD members who have tested positive for COVID-19 for their service to the community on the front lines. Many, if not most are experiencing mild to no symptoms, which will hopefully translate to a speedy recovery process. City and AFD administration have prioritized the health of our firefighters and their families and will continue to monitor their conditions and needs."
The Abilene Fire Department implemented its COVID-19 Response Plan in early March. The plan provided additional personal protective equipment for personnel, outlined policies for station and equipment disinfecting and closed all stations to visitors and the general public. The plan also contains measures for dealing with multiple positive cases within the fire department while maintaining operational readiness.
"At this time, we are confident in our abilities to meet the needs of the public and to do so in a manner that protects both AFD members and the citizens of Abilene," the release stated.
The City of Abilene said it is in discussions with its local health authority to determine if all operational personnel need to be tested for COVID-19. At this time, firefighters are receiving tests from private providers covered by the City’s health insurance plan at no cost to the firefighter. These firefighters are on the front line of our community’s COVID-19 response.
"An increase in testing naturally results in increased positives. This is being seen in other parts of Texas, and our nation. It is not cause for alarm, and it does not mean our firefighters are not taking adequate precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Firefighters who test positive, or are awaiting test results will not respond to calls within the community until cleared by our local health authority.
We ask for continued prayers and support for our AFD members and their families."