Update: Tuesday afternoon Chicago officials updated the media to say 5 firefighters have tested positive for COVID-19. Full story on that and other first responder updates here.
CHICAGO — Four members of the Chicago Fire Department have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and several other firefighters who are experiencing flu-like symptoms have been placed under quarantine.
But union officials said those individuals are still waiting to be tested.
“Unfortunately, there’s only 250 members that are able to be tested every day and some of our members haven’t been able to be tested at those sites,” said Patrick Quane, Local 2 Firefighters Union.
The initial case — a paramedic — was discovered last week. Two more cases were recently discovered, according to a department spokesperson.
“We believe it was contracted on the job. Our members are responding to numerous calls all throughout the day and it’s pretty evident that Coronavirus is prevalent here in Chicago,” said Quane.
Firefighters and paramedics have a higher risk of exposure because of their interaction with the public. They also work extended shifts in close quarters which is leading to a heightened concern about the spread of the virus among them.
“We are practicing social distancing in the fire house also. But, yeah, we basically live together for 24 hours,” Quane said. “Guys have been able to keep their distance and there’s been a lot of disinfectant in the fire house.”
Some first responders said getting tested for COVID-19 had proven difficult.
The Chicago Fire Department said all firehouses have undergone a deep cleaning.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot paid a visit Tuesday to one firehouse during roll call to answer questions and assure the department the city was working to protect them.
Union officials are asking the public to do their part to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
“We’re asking them to notify that call taker when they call 911 that they do suspect that they may have this, or that they may have been diagnosed with it or that they have flu-like symptoms.”
The firefighters union and the department said supplies of masks and gloves are not an issue at this time.