"Having our six personnel who volunteered to put themselves at a higher risk in order to protect others, when we knew so little, was an important moment that showed their courage, compassion and leadership," said fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman. "That's why we put them at the front of the line of our front-line fire personnel to be vaccinated, if they wanted to do this, and trust me, everyone in our organization gets it and appreciated it."
Over the last nine months, nearly half of the district's 100 first responders have been tested and/or quarantined due to possible exposure to the virus. Two firefighters contracted the virus and both survived, according to the press release.
The pandemic team responded to care facilities, homeless encampments and cramped housing conditions, where entire families tested positive for the virus, to car accidents, suicides, stabbings, overdoses and difficulty breathing calls in which the patients' actual medical conditions were less known. Some 10% of the medical responses over the last nine months were flagged as patients potentially having COVID-19, and a third of those were confirmed as positive cases.
The team returned to normal duty when other fire responders became comfortable with new patient care protocols and safety measures, the release states.
A third of the fire district's 150 employees — support staff, or administrative personnel — are not considered front-line workers and will not be vaccinated now.
"I don't plan to be vaccinated until every other employee that works for me has had the opportunity to go first," said Schapelhouman. "I also feel strongly that front-line police officers need to be vaccinated before we do. It's hard to imagine why these important members of our public safety family and team, 'street cops' who closely work to support our front-line fire personnel working literally side by side out in the community, are not being vaccinated as of yet. I'm sure it will get resolved but many on my staff don't feel we should go before them."
Meanwhile, Atherton's police Chief Steve McCulley expects his officers to be vaccinated toward the end of January, he said in a Dec. 27 email.
This story contains 440 words.
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