Front-line medical, first responder spread of COVID-19 concerning because of impact on critical workforce

Front-line medical, first responder spread of COVID-19 concerning because of impact on critical work

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - An ongoing concern nationally and globally about the COVID-19 epidemic is front-line medical workers or first responders getting sick. We are already starting to see some of that in Memphis.

Wednesday Regional One announced two of its employees identified through screening practices tested positive for COVID-19. The healthcare provider said they were already self isolated when the tests came back.

St. Jude also has two employees that have tested positive for the virus. The hospital told WMC Action News 5 that enhanced screenings like symptom checks and even periodic COVID-19 testing are underway on staff who perform patient care, since many of the hospital’s patients have compromised immune systems. Non-essential employees are no longer reporting to work on the St. Jude campus.

At least one MPD employee has also tested positive, which Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland confirmed last week.

Positive cases in these types of people are a concern for the Shelby County Health Department. Public health officials said in these instances, contact tracing is essential.

“If it’s spreading in those populations, we are going to deplete our workforce,” said Alisa Haushalter, Director, Shelby County Health Department. “Because you have the individual who’s ill but also all of their contacts will be quarantined. We need our first responders to be able to respond.”

The Memphis Fire Fighters Association said temperature checks are being performed at firehouses, and PPE is being worn on runs where someone is showing virus-like symptoms.

The association told WMC Action News 5 that multiple firefighters have tested positive for COVID-19 and are off the job, but they did not get the illness locally as a result of their work. In addition, dozens of firefighters are on preventative quarantines.

“The protocols that we got in place they do work,” said Thomas Malone, MFFA president. “The concern we have, both labor and management, if this is a prolonged thing then we are going to be concerned about supplies.”

Both the Memphis Police Association and Memphis Fire Fighters Association said Wednesday they believe the city has taken appropriate measures to keep workers safe on the job.

WMC Action News 5 reached out to the City of Memphis Wednesday trying to confirm a number of firefighters with positive tests. We did not hear back as of press time.

WMC Action News 5 also asked about MPD. The latest number we had for MPD employees with a positive case was one.

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