NASHVILLE, TN — Ryan White is young, fit and loves to take care of himself. As a firefighter, he says he loves to take care of the community too.
“When people call you, that’s their worst moment and you’re job is to be there for them and that’s what we have to do,” White said.
But right now, it’s his turn to be the patient. White is currently at home recovering from COVID-19.
His 7-year-old daughter also tested positive. His 93-year-old uncle and mother are hospitalized with the virus.
White says, like the other firefighters, he’s tried to avoid bringing the virus home.
“At the end of the day, that’s my biggest fear, but I’ve still got a job to do, so I try and take as many precautions as I can to avoid it,” White said.
He’s not alone. Since the start of the pandemic, 26 other firefighters have tested positive, according to a Nashville Fire Department spokesman. Currently, 19 of them are still sick.
Four more are awaiting test results while another three are quarantined after being around family members that tested positive the virus. In all, that’s 26 firefighters off the grid. That’s on top of the 90 that the department is already short.
“The less employees we have in the streets – less firefighters and less EMTs on the calls – the longer it takes to get to the calls that need to be responded to,” said White.
“That could very well cause a staffing issue where equipment could be shut down,” said Mark Young, president of the Nashville Firefighters Union. “We hope we don’t get there.”
Young says on top of the shortage made worse by COVID-19, people on medical leave for injuries on the job or those on vacation deepen the shortage and putting more lives in danger with not much help from city leaders. A spokesman for the Nashville Fire Department says Metro Council did not approve adding enough money in their budget to fill the 90 vacancies.
Mayor John Cooper did promise to give first responders hazard pay for working during the pandemic. But no matter how many they have, White says they’ll still do the best job they can.
“We don’t have time to worry about what the danger is for us because our goal at the end of the day is to help you,” White said.
From Fox 17 Nashville