MOREHEAD CITY — Fire and EMScrews stationed at Fire Station No. 3 returned to work over the weekend upon completing a two-week quarantine period after a crew member tested positive for COVID-19.
Morehead City Manager Ryan Eggleston confirmed to the News-Times Tuesday an employee at the station had tested positive for COVID-19. Crew members of all three shifts, 15 firefighters and EMTs in total, were placed under a 14-day quarantine and directed to self-isolate at home by the Carteret County Health Department.
“It is my understanding that as of today, everyone is off of quarantine and back to work,” Mr. Eggleston said. “We did that really as a safety precaution and following the guidance of the health department.”
Fire and EMS Chief Jamie Fulk said the quarantine period ended late last week and members began returning to work at the station Saturday. As of Tuesday, all 15 employees, including the individual who tested positive for COVID-19, are reportedly healthy and have returned to work.
All other crew members at Fire Station No. 3 were tested for COVID-19 after the initial confirmed case, but nobody else tested positive for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Chief Fulk said all other employees in the department were also notified and offered testing and there have been no further confirmed cases within the department.
The fire department worked closely with the health department to conduct contact tracing for the employees. For those crew members who live outside the county, their local health departments did the same.
“There were a lot moving parts in this particular situation, a lot of coordination,” Chief Fulk said.
As a precaution, a professional cleaning company also sanitized all three of the Morehead City fire stations.
Chief Fulk said there was no service interruption to the fire district served by Fire Station No. 3, which covers Wildwood and other unincorporated areas west of town. He said there were a few days while they were working out logistics and sanitizing the building when there was no crew manning the station, but employees from other stations were eventually placed there to temporarily handle operations.
Chief Fulk notified local and state emergency management of the situation at Fire Station No. 3 in case things progressed and the department required mutual aid to provide coverage. He said mutual aid agreements are in place to ensure departments have the resources to respond during emergencies or other disasters.
“We thought down that road in case we had more positive test results and would require assistance,” he said. “…We started the ball rolling with the county (Emergency Operations Center) right away.”
The process for requesting mutual aid during the pandemic, Chief Fulk noted, is essentially the same as in any other emergency situation, such as a hurricane. He said while the department did not require it this time, it has received and provided mutual aid in other emergencies.
“Through training and experience I knew of those resources that are available to us,” he said. “It’s a different type of emergency, but the allocation of resources is the same.”
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