The latest wave of COVID-19 infections is hitting D.C. first responders hard.
DC Fire and EMS had more than 100 additional firefighters test positive for the virus over the weekend. Nearly 20% of D.C. firefighters and paramedics are unable to work because of positive test results.
Some ambulances and fire engines were placed out of service for entire shifts or parts of shifts in recent days.
D.C. has contingency plans in place, Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice Chris Geldart said. The number of first responders taken out of service due to the surge in COVID cases is serious but not critical, he said.
“When we do lose an engine like that, there’s a backup right away to it and a backup to that, so, may that extend our time a little bit? Potentially, but there’s a lot of backups that go into play with that so that we don’t miss a call and we don’t put anybody in jeopardy," Geldart said.
Of D.C.’s first responders, the fire department has been hit the hardest, with nearly twice the number of firefighters testing positive in the past two days as the entire week before. The department has seen 187 new cases since Friday.
Of the more than 2,000 fire department staff members, 356 are now out of service. To fill the gaps, firefighters who in normal times work a 24-hour shift have been working as many as 60 hours straight.
The Metropolitan Police Department has about 10% of its officers sidelined. Of more than 3,500 officers, 367 are out of service because of positive test results or quarantine requirements.
At the 911 call center, about 10% of the staff is out. But you can still get the help you need, the deputy mayor said.
“If you need emergency services, dial 911,” Geldart said. “The city is still there, still responding.”
He thanked the firefighters, police officers, medics and trash collectors working hard to keep D.C. operating.