York County has at least four cases of COVID-19 among firefighters and EMS clinicians after the discovery of at least three cases involving the Sanford Fire Department, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday.
Among the cases associated with the Sanford Fire Department are individuals who worked with the Buxton and Saco fire departments, spurring the coronavirus testing of all Buxton Fire Department employees, families and others this weekend. Testing for all Saco Fire Department members and other individuals were being arranged on Monday, Maine CDC spokesperson Robert Long said.
Maine CDC classifies an outbreak as three or more linked cases. Union members at the Sanford station first announced the cases earlier Monday. The unions said at that time that the majority of Sanford’s firefighters have been tested for the coronavirus, but 10 still had not received results 72 hours after testing.
“Everyone here at the Sanford Fire Department has been united in working as fast as we can to mitigate the spread of this virus by ensuring that everyone infected has been quickly removed from service and quarantined in order to protect the health and safety of our department, our families and our community,” said Eric Beecher, the president of the Sanford Fire Fighters Association.
Beecher said that firefighters are following coronavirus guidelines when responding to calls, including wearing protective equipment such as N95 masks, gowns, gloves and eye protection.
“The coronavirus outbreak at the Sanford Fire Department underscores how critical it is to ensure that our first responders are given top priority in receiving direct access to COVID-19 testing and that they receive their results in a timely fashion,” said Michael Crouse, the president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Maine.
As of Monday, there have been 750 total coronavirus cases reported in York County, where Sanford is located, according to the Maine CDC.
It isn’t the first recorded outbreak among first responders in Maine. In June, four of Houlton’s six full-time paramedic and emergency medical technicians and a firefighter tested positive for the coronavirus. That same month, several members of Fort Fairfield’s fire department and one police officer were believed to have been exposed to the coronavirus, but they later tested negative.