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Washington's first responders adapt as coronavirus cases rise

Since the start of the pandemic departments in the region has created and adapted plans to help keep the public and the force safe.

WOODINVILLE, Wash. — Hospitals across western Washington are hoping to vaccinate more than 4,000 first responders by the end of the year. Departments have seen impacts to their forces and have had to adapt as first responders have been faced with coronavirus exposures and quarantines. 

Woodinville Deputy Fire Chief Doug McDonald said departments across the region respond to 18 coronavirus-related calls per day. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, large numbers of first responders have needed to quarantine because of exposure to coronavirus. McDonald says they've adapted to help limit that number. 

When first responders report to a call they now send one responder in dressed in full personal-protection gear. That person evaluates the situation. This system has drastically cut the number of responders needing to quarantine. 

"We document into our reports all the PPE that was worn by the crews so then I can compare  based on a COVID-19 positive patient and if my crew was in full gear then I don't consider it an exposure, but if there were an issue then I would have to  follow up and determine what the exposure chances were," said McDonald. 

McDonald said 4,600 first responders will have the opportunity to be vaccinated by the end of the year. The vaccination is not required, but highly encourage and McDonald believe a high percent of the region's frontline workers will take it. 

The vaccine are being sent to hospitals where 20 percent are distributed to first responders. 

Departments across the region are also preparing for a spike in cases following the holidays. McDonalds said if hospitals become overwhelmed the network between hospitals and ambulance crews will remain strong. 

"A day does not go by where I am not spending hours a day communicating with other regional partners, looking at data, on phone calls and conference calls with public health to make sure we are absolutely prepared," said McDonald. 

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