Coronavirus: First responders modify way of work after 4 San Jose firefighters test positive for COVID-19

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Four San Jose firefighters have tested positive for COVID-19 and at least 52 others are currently on leave for possible exposure.

San Jose Asst. Fire Chief Reggie Williams says he doesn't know how the firefighters contracted coronavirus. At least one of the firefighters is now being treated at a hospital in the city in which he resides.

"Because our firefighters work in teams and they train together, and they eat together, and they sleep in the same areas, they are at risk for possible exposure," said Williams.

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Nearly 80 firefighters, out of the approximately 700 who work for the fire department, have at one point been placed on leave based on their last known contact with one of the four infected firefighters.

"We're realizing now every call we go on could be a possible COVID-19 exposure and we're taking it very seriously," said Sean Kaldor, president of IAFF Local 230, which represents San Jose firefighters.

"You'll see when we approach a call, if it's not a critical patient, we'll send one responder inside, they'll have on mask, they'll have on goggles, they'll have on gown," said Sean Kaldor, president of IAFF Local 230, which represents San Jose firefighters.

San Jose's firefighters must now screen all their patients unless it's a critical case and in that situation, their team must approach with full protective equipment.

"We are realizing now that every call we go on, can be a possible COVID situation and we're taking that very seriously," Kaldor said.

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Fire officials say they're backfilling the positions and that the department remains fully operational.

"We'll do what must be done to serve the residents of San Jose," said Kaldor.

All fire station visits and non-essential business has been suspended, officials said.

The situation at SJFD - a reminder of just how risky it can be to work on the frontlines of the crisis - including police officers, EMS workers, nurses, doctors. All of them now having to change the way they do their jobs.

Starting Friday, all patients coming into a Santa Clara county hospital must now be screened.

This statement from the Registered Professional Nurses Association:

"We are working closely with the county to ensure that all necessary information is being disseminated in a timely manner, and equipment and supplies are readily available for staff.

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