The Abilene Fire Department has experienced a direct impact due to the COVID-19 coronavirus. To date, 49 firefighters have tested positive for the virus, and an additional 6 have self-quarantined due to direct exposures. These numbers required us to adjust programs and reassign personnel in order to maintain adequate staffing levels in Operations. Our “healthy” AFD personnel have been challenged in a way that is unprecedented in our Department. They have responded by rising to the challenge and working additional overtime hours in order to support our mission and maintain the level of service expected from our citizens.
All AFD members that have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus must remain in self-isolation until their symptoms have subsided and they have obtained a negative follow up test. We are following the Abilene-Taylor Health Department recommendations, which directly reflect CDC Return to Work Guidelines. AFD personnel currently working have no virus symptoms and personnel who tested positive for the virus previously have met the return to work guidelines.
Since April 27, we have experienced only one additional positive case. This is extraordinary considering the extensive testing of our department members. 37 AFD personnel have been cleared to return to work either through negative follow up testing or from expired quarantine periods. I tested negative on May 4th, and have returned to work this week. We currently have 17 members that remain positive and are self-isolated.
Our saving grace during this time has been the tremendous support we have received from the Abilene Community and from our city administration. On behalf of the Abilene Fire Department, I want to thank everyone for the encouraging words, food, PPE supplies, prayers, and overall support that we have received during this time. We are blessed to work in such a great community and to have the support of Team Abilene.
We have also been very fortunate in the fact that our personnel have only experienced mild symptoms, in comparison to others who have contracted this virus. No AFD personnel have been hospitalized with COVID-19 virus symptoms.
I ask that you continue to pray and support those severely affected by the COVID-19 virus and please remain vigilant with social distancing and with your personal protection practices. AFD is requiring all personnel to wear a medical mask while on-duty and I am asking everyone else to do the same. This practice is not for you but for those that you come into contact with. Wearing a mask in public is the responsible thing to do at this time.
Stay safe and healthy.