Some Kirkland firefighters who responded to the first reported cases of the novel coronavirus at a local care center have developed “flu-like” symptoms, the city said Monday.
The symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2, are similar to the flu and include cough, fever and shortness of breath.
On Friday, the city announced that it had quarantined 25 firefighters and two police officers who had responded to and transported patients from Life Care Center in Kirkland, which has become the epicenter for the most deadly outbreak of the virus in the U.S. On Monday, city spokeswoman Kellie Stickney said the number of quarantined firefighters had risen to 27, and that the city had been “notified that some of our firefighters in quarantine are demonstrating flu-like symptoms.”
“We are working closely with Public Health – Seattle & King County and adhering to their testing protocols,” the city said in a news release. None of the first responders has been hospitalized, Stickney said. The situation, she said, “remains a dynamic event.”
The firefighters and officers all had responded to calls for various medical complaints at the Life Care Center, where a number of residents have been infected. At least four of the six people who have died in Washington were residents of the facility, according to health officials.
Stickney said all of the firefighters but one had chosen to quarantine at home. The sole firefighter who hadn’t stayed home was hunkered down in an empty fire station that is awaiting decontamination, she said.
The city said it was continuing to evaluate its personnel and may send others into quarantine if necessary.
Stickney said that, despite nearly a quarter of the department’s firefighters being off-duty and in quarantine, the city continues to man its stations, mostly through overtime. If the situation were to worsen, with additional firefighters pulled from duty, she said the city has contractual agreements with its neighbors and King County to ensure a full response to medical emergencies and fires within the city limits.
“We advise community members to stay informed on the most recent updates from our public health agencies and the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention],” said Fire Chief Joseph Sanford. “Please note that we are not accepting donations from the public of any kind at this time. The best way for the community to help is to implement advice from public health and get yourself and your family prepared.”
The city said all of its first responders now have CDC-recommended protection equipment and are following protocols to avoid infection or spreading the virus.