CHICAGO (CBS) — Some Chicago firefighters and paramedics will now be tested for coronavirus before and after work.
CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov uncovered that new step, and testing will be done at specific firehouses. It begins Thursday at two firehouses.
At least nine Chicago Fire Department members who work at the firehouse at 71st and Parnell have tested positive for COVID-19, and there may be more. “Hot” houses like that one are prompting the city and CFD to start shift change testing for the illness as a way to keep it from spreading as department cases keep rising.
“I just got off the phone with the city, and they said that the fastest these results could be back in three or four days, and if they are hot, they’re going to be ordered to stay home,” said Firefighter Local 2 President Jim Tracy.
He said several firehouses fit the “hot” criteria, including those at O’Hare and Midway.
In addition to firehouse testing, effective this week, all CFD firefighters are required to wear masks in rigs and firehouses.
“These are our members that are getting sick, and we don’t know how many of our own members are sick. We don’t know how many it’s spread between. We don’t know, we could be infecting the public,” he said.
Tracy is glad these actions are now in place but says on site testing for firefighters should have been done sooner.
“All that’s been done and been in place for quite some time,” said Mayor Lori Lightfoot when she was asked about the new testing procedures.
The head of the city’s public health department Dr. Allison Arwady had to clarify that response.
“We’ve now started to be able to really have some more specific testing and investigation in conjunction with the Chicago Fire Department to really make sure that we’re bringing testing wherever it is needed,” Arwady said.
Currently a CFD spokesperson says 151 department members have tested positive for COVID-19. Tracy says 82 of those are recovered and back to work, and 31 members are in self-quarantine.
“Obviously most young kids are getting through this. We definitely need the testing, and the city is stepping up now,” said Tracy.
Tracy said the union bought thermometers for every firehouse recently as an added symptom check layer.
A fire department spokesperson said the tests will be give at two firehouses Thursday but couldn’t say which ones or if and when testing will continue at other firehouses.