CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago firefighters say they are having to wait much too long for their COVID-19 test results.
The coronavirus has already killed two of their men, and on Thursday night, they told CBS 2’s Jermont Terry the wait for results is maddening.
The Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2 has mandated that all of its members get tested for COVID-19. Firefighters are getting the test – but the results are the problem. The lack of them leave many uneasy and unsafe while inside the firehouses.
The men and women of the Chicago Fire Department, of course, have to keep working in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Work, for them, entails 24 hours per shift inside the various fire stations.
“Everyone wants to get tested and they’re overloading the system,” said Jim Tracy, President of the Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2.
Tracy made one thing clear to every member.
“Number one, I’m asking them to get tested,” he said.
So firefighters rushed to testing centers on Forest Preserve Drive on the Northwest Side, and at Roseland Community Hospital on the Far South Side.
On Thursday afternoon, many first responders continued to line up at the Roseland site to get the COVID-19 test. Terry was told the city recommended the facility as a South Side location, and the results were supposed to come in 24 to 48 hours.
But many first responders, especially firefighters, said those results were taking too long. They said they are waiting eight and sometimes 10 days.
“If we don’t know our results, we are infecting other people – and that’s the problem,” Tracy said.
As firefighters wait on delayed results, they feel vulnerable to the virus inside fire stations.
“We ride in the rig together – that’s close. We sleep where it’s close,” Tracy said. “Instead of everyone eating at the table, we have guys eating in chairs; other guys in different areas. We’re doing the best we can.”
Firefighters told CBS 2 they are anxious waiting for results. Some have tried to get a second test at different sites, hoping for faster results.
“Those members are being responsible,” Tracy said. “They might seem paranoid to some people. but they’re doing the right thing.”
Right now, the firefighters want peace of mind.
“We go out to save every other family member in the community,” Tracy said. “We want to ensure that our family members will be taken care of.”
The CFD has required all firefighters to wear surgical masks on every run, and use N95 masks when they know they are encountering someone with COVID-19.
We are told Gov. JB Pritzker is working to open more testing centers throughout the state, which could potentially alleviate some of the backlogs at fire stations.