Three members of the Highland Park Fire Department were quarantined Monday, March 16, 2020 after they responded to a call for a patient with high risk international travel history and symptoms consistent with a coronavirus infection.
The patient they treated has not yet tested positive for COVID-19 but recently traveled internationally and could have contracted the virus, according to an official release from Highland Park. After returning to the fire station, the trio of paramedics immediately quarantined themselves on the advice of staff at Highland Park Hospital.
“The Fire Department has a staffing plan in place to ensure continuity of service delivery in the event that personnel are exposed to any symptomatic case of COVID-19 or otherwise require quarantine.”
— City Manager Ghida Neukirch
Routinely 9-1-1 operators will ask callers whether patients with consistent symptoms have recently traveled to any high risk countries. Local officials say residents can help emergency personnel by informing dispatchers about symptoms they have or that anyone else at the location is experiencing, any travel history or any contact with someone who has tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The information allows paramedics to prepare by wearing proper personal protective equipment. People who are well enough to walk may be asked to walk outside to meet paramedics outside.
Local officials have not asked people to avoid using paramedics for coronavirus-related symptoms, however federal and state officials have asked people with coronavirus-related symptoms not to arrive at emergency rooms unannounced. Officials have asked people to call their health care providers or call the emergency room for instructions.
Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights, for example, has a special isolation entrance/corridor near the emergency department.
In Highland Park, the ambulance used for the patient by the three quarantined firefighters was disinfected and was given a deep anti-viral cleaning, according to the release. Medical professionals advised Highland Park city staff the fire department personnel were at a very low risk of contracting the virus, even if their patient did test positive.
The three firefighter/paramedics were expected to remain quarantined pending the results of the patient’s coronavirus test, which was expected Tuesday evening, March 18, 2020. However, the test results update was pushed back, according to an update at 6:57 p.m. Tuesday.
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