INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Every day, police, fire and paramedics continue to risk their health protecting the public.
On Monday, officials in Marion County updated the number of first responders who have contracted the coronavirus.
So far, 27 Indianapolis Fire Department firefighters have tested positive for COVID-19, as well as 25 Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers and eight Indianapolis Emergency Medical Services paramedics.
Experts admit dealing with a pandemic has proved unpredictable.
“You know, it’s affecting our officers differently. The symptoms are different for all of them, and they recover differently, so it might not affect some the same as it does others,” said IMPD Homeland Security Commander Tom Sellas.
Still, a closer look at the numbers shows some encouraging trends. On April 7, 20 IMPD officers had tested positive for COVID-19, while only one had returned to work.
Two weeks later, 25 officers have now tested positive, but 16 have been cleared to return to duty.
The same trend is true for IFD, which went from 21 positive cases and five recovered on April 7, to 27 positive cases and 19 recovered in the last two weeks.
At IEMS, the numbers have gone from seven positive and two recovered to eight positive and six recovered.
That means across the board, first responders have gotten healthy quicker than they’ve fallen ill the last two weeks.
“It’s always encouraging to see lesser amount of people being infected and more coming to work, absolutely,” said Sellas.
Sellas insists the public will play a big roll in protecting first responders by continuing to practice social distancing in the weeks and months ahead.
Anyone in the community calling 9-1-1 is asked to be forthright with the dispatcher about any flu-like issues they, or any member of their family, may be experiencing – even if the dispatcher does not ask specifically.
Residents should meet responders at the door or on the front porch, if they are able. This allows for a quick assessment in an open area and helps reduce risk of unnecessary exposure.
“The state and city won’t be on this lockdown forever, so when it does open up, we still have to work in this environment, and taking those precautions is going to help immensely,” said Sellas.
IMPD has more than 1,600 police officers who serve in 78 beats across Indianapolis. IFD is made up of more than 1,200 firefighters who serve neighborhoods from 43 fire stations. IEMS’ workforce is made up of more than 350 EMTs and paramedics.
Agency leaders are actively monitoring the health of first responders and act swiftly when known exposure occurs or symptoms of the virus are exhibited.
First responders are sent for free COVID-19 testing offered by Eli Lilly & Co. following an exposure protocol developed by IEMS, which is run through the EOC.
Indianapolis first responders who test positive for COVID-19 are self-quarantined at home and monitored for any progression of symptoms.
Those individuals will return to work only after being medically cleared by a doctor.
Firefighters, police officers and IEMS providers working in close proximity to a COVID-19-positive person follow the EOC procedure with regard to notification, testing and self-quarantine.
These protocols aim to reduce transmission of the virus between first responders working in close proximity and the community members they interact with.