By Janelle Foskett
FDNY Chief of Operations Tom Richardson shared a video update with members on Tuesday, revealing that 1,715 firefighters and EMS personnel are on medical leave with COVID-19-related illness, and detailing staffing needs and efforts to support personnel.
In the update, released to members via FDNY Foundation Vimeo page, Chief Richardson also shared that 1,870 members have returned to work from COVID-19-related diagnoses – but that members are still becoming ill.
“We know that you all are exhausted, physically, emotionally and mentally. However, we continue to need your full commitment to the department and to the FDNY mission to save lives,” Richardson said. “Please continue to come to work if not sick. Be sure to wear your PPE to protect yourselves.”
Richardson detailed the department’s efforts to minimize virus spread. Specifically, he noted that the department’s chief medical officer, Dr. David Prezant, and the Bureau of Health Services have partnered with several entities and developed a plan to have symptomatic members tested during the next week.
“We are continuing with the sanitizing and disinfecting of firehouses and EMS stations using teams from our special operations command,” Richardson added.
There are also rapid response vehicles (RRVs) being used to support EMS personnel in some areas of the city, Richardson explained, adding that, “This week, we will begin a program of staffing additional RRVs and deploying them to be second sections of our busiest CFR engine companies.”
Further, Richardson shared that the department has been responding to a record number of cardiac arrest calls. He acknowledged that this is taking an emotional toll on members and encouraged them to seek out the available counseling services.
Richardson shared messages of encouragement with members as well: “During our 155-year history, we have been challenged many times. Our country has experienced other pandemics throughout its history and has been able to persevere and recover. This time in history will be no different. I know you are up to the challenge.”
He thanked members for their continued service to the department and to the city and asked that everyone “stay focused on the mission.”