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Coronavirus: 6 Toronto firefighters test positive for COVID-19

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Global News has confirmed 6 Toronto firefighters have tested positive for coronavirus.

The news comes amid growing concerns from frontline first responders about their health and safety.

In the document, Frank Ramagnano, the president of the Toronto Professional Fire Fighters’ Association (TPFFA) wrote, “These members were all very healthy yet the virus is having a very strong negative effect on them. Some have commented it is the worst thing they have experienced, and are concerned they may be hospitalized.”

READ MORE: Mississauga, Oakville firefighters test positive for COVID-19

The memo also implores members to practice social distancing, which can be difficult in fire halls where employees work, sleep and eat together.

“In some cases, we have not only had to isolate the crew the person worked with, but we had to isolate the crew that was socially interacted with at shift change-over as well,” the memo read.

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“This is many more people who could have spread the virus when one considers the family they are going to and those who they will interact with during the shift.”

In an interview Sunday with Global News, Ramagnano said: “Our members are very concerned, but they are more concerned about what COVID is doing to our society, so they want to be at work. We’ve had a historical low in the amount of members using sick time because they want to get into work to protect citizens”

“Firefighters are fearful for themselves and their families like everyone else.”

Meanwhile, TPFFA said over 200 of their members are currently in self-isolation, primarily due to recent travel.

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Another memo obtained by Global News sent last week from Acting Fire Chief Jim Kay warned firefighters not to use their N95 masks for calls.

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“It has come to our attention that operations staff are responding to calls other than medical and are wearing N95 masks which is depleting our resources faster than expected,” Kay said.

The memo also stated, “Regular medical response calls only require Level 2 PPE which includes bunker pants, firefighting boots, safety glasses and nitrile gloves. If the patient has screened positive for COVID-19 either by communications or on-scene questioning, the firefighter will don Level 4 PPE which includes bunker pants, firefighting boots, safety glasses, N95 mask, disposable gown or bunker coat and nitrile gloves.”

However, communication about calls is a concern from some firefighters Global News has spoken to, with one saying complete information is not always given as to whether or not a call could potentially involve someone positive for COVID-19.

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There are also concerns about alarms where residents evacuate a building and congregate in one area, or where firefighters have to pass through crowds to enter.

The union president also said the supply chain for PPE right now is being stretched thin. “We would love to see a plan in Ontario where all PPE is controlled from one central location, as opposed to right now where we are seeing some first responders in hospitals have equipment and others don’t have any.”

READ MORE: Ontario government bans gatherings of more than 5 people in bid to stop coronavirus spread

On Saturday, when asked about concerns from frontline emergency workers, including firefighters, Premier Doug Ford said: “They’re putting their lives on the line for us every single day and I’m so, so grateful.

Ford also promised to have Solicitor General Sylvia Jones follow up on concerns about the distribution and supply of masks.

“It is critical, they are a priority and again, we’ll we’ll be making sure what we see on paper, on inventory and physically going out there and checking to make sure we have the right distribution and nothing’s more important,” Ford said.

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