A coronavirus cluster has emerged in the Attleboro Fire Department, resulting in nine infected firefighters and two positive dispatchers.
One of the firefighters is “very ill” and is getting treated at Rhode Island Hospital, according to Attleboro’s mayor. The firefighter is in serious condition.
The Attleboro fire department outbreak comes as firefighters across Massachusetts have started to interact with more people because of more calls and open businesses, said Rich MacKinnon Jr., president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts.
“We keep stressing the need to be vigilant with personal protective equipment, and to not be complacent,” MacKinnon added.
Nearly 300 of 11,000 PFFM members have tested positive, and 323 are currently in quarantine. Almost 4,000 firefighters have been exposed while on the job.
Last week in Attleboro, one firefighter tested positive for the virus and immediately notified the department. That firefighter was isolated, and the entire department was then tested.
After testing, the department was able to largely isolate the outbreak to one shift. Most of the nine firefighters and two dispatchers who tested positive worked at the same time.
The department’s facilities have been professionally disinfected, and new air filtration systems will be installed in the four fire facilities.
Even with the cluster, the fire department is able to fully staff its shifts.
“Because of the actions of the fire chief and the cooperation of the firefighters, I have every confidence that this situation is under control and the services that the fire department provides to the community will continue as needed,” Mayor Paul Heroux said in a statement.
Attleboro Firefighters Local 848 President Paul Jacques said in a statement, “Our Members are on the front lines of this pandemic. The circumstances experienced today are examples of the sacrifice and dedication our members show on a daily basis. The health and safety of our firefighters, their families and the residents of Attleboro remains our top priority.”
The state Department of Public Health on Wednesday designated Attleboro as a high-risk “red” community.
The city has had 60 new virus cases over the last two weeks.
“We cannot and will not and should not blame this on the firefighters who have recently tested positive,” Heroux wrote on Facebook. “They are no more or less part of the overall number of people who contributed to our overall rate.”