By Laura French
NEW YORK — A study conducted by the FDNY's chief medical officer found that EMS providers at the department were five times more likely than firefighters to contract COVID-19 in the early months of the pandemic.
The study, led by Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Prezant, suggests that the department's decision to exempt firefighters from medical calls involving patients with possible COVID-19 symptoms likely contributed to the difference in infection risk, according to The Chief Leader.
The research, which included data from 10,786 FDNY firefighters and 3,501 EMS members and covered the time period between Jan. 3 and May 31, also found that FDNY personnel were 15 times more likely than the general public to contract the virus in the pandemic's early weeks.
A total of 5,175 FDNY members, or 36.2% of the workforce, either tested positive for COVID-19 or were suspected to have contracted the virus based on their symptoms, the study found. Of those cases, 62 were considered to be severe infections, and four EMS members died due to the virus.
Prezant, who is also a professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, said that the study results show the importance of proper PPE use and the availability of vaccinations for first responders. He said that although FDNY firefighters and EMS providers followed the same PPE protocols, EMS providers may have contracted the virus more often while transporting patients and providing treatment.
The research was conducted in partnership with FDNY Medical Officer Dr. Michael Weiden, a professor of medicine at NYU Medical School.
FDNY EMS union leaders reacted to the study's findings by saying that the city must do more to recognize the dangers faced by the city's EMS providers. They also raised concerns about the potential long-term effects for those who have recovered from the virus.
"Let's hope the Mayor will look at this report, and with the results of the election and the possibility of cooperation from the Federal Government, will provide the EMS [members] with the hazard pay we are due," Uniformed EMS Officers Local 3621 President Vincent Variale told The Chief Leader.