New COVID-19 guidelines set to protect first responders, public

How are first responders staying safe during COVID-19
Posted at 3:45 PM, Apr 01, 2020

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — With the number of COVID-19 cases growing daily in Nueces county, first responders are taking a more cautious approach to calls.

City Manager Peter Zanoni laid out the new protective measures at Tuesday’s briefing. The idea is to keep first responders as safe as possible while limiting exposure to COVID-19.

“We have a duty and responsibility to protect the public,” said Corpus Christi Fire Chief Robert Rocha. “As fire chief I need to protect the firefighters, I need to protect their families, and I need to protect the community.”

To keep the community safe, Corpus Christi first responders have a new set of guidelines.

“You may not see as many fire trucks showing up if you’re calling 911,” said Rocha. “We will have an ambulance there.”

One EMT in full personal protection equipment -- goggles, mask, gloves, face shield, and gown -- will assess the situation. If the patient is a risk, the other EMT will either stay six feet away or put on PPE to assist. If necessary, other firefighters can be called to respond.

“We’re doing this in an abundance of caution," Rocha said. "We have to protect the firefighters. We have to make sure we keep them in service for critical calls."

Responders who treat a potential COVID-19 patient are quarantined until after the patient’s test results come back. If the patient tests positive, the responder is tested and kept quarantined until their results are in. So far, no local first responders have tested positive.

“None of my firefighters want to take this home to their families,” said Rocha.

Rocha said his crews can reuse N-95 masks up to five times with proper decontamination, and there’s no contact with a potential COVID-19 patient. He’s confident the department has enough supplies of the personal protection equipment.

Rocha commended first responders for the way they’ve adapted during the crisis. He said he’ll keep looking for ways to keep crews as safe as possible.