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Story by The Oregon Herald Staff
Published on Thursday November 26, 2020 - 11:23 PM

All 31 Portland Fire and Rescue stations are open and responding to emergency calls despite a recent up-tick in positive COVID 19 tests among eight firefighters in the past week.

From November 17, 2020 to November 25, 2020, eight employees tested positive for COVID 19. By comparison, Portland Fire and Rescue had experienced a total of only 10 cases from February 28, 2020 (the date of the first case in Oregon) to November 17, 2020. Of those, 9 have since recovered and returned to duty. During this same time period, PF&R responded to over 59,830 total calls.

No hospitalizations have been reported and measures have been taken to quarantine firefighters who may have come in contact with these eight recent cases; currently 57 firefighters are quarantined.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Portland Fire and Rescue's top priority has been safeguarding the health and safety of the general public and all employees. Fire Chief Sara Boone said, "Firefighters are an essential workforce and must provide mission critical services 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Our station living and working conditions present extra challenges that fire departments across the nation are wrestling with. To keep employees and the public safe, we have adopted stringent policies and best practices."

PF&R has met and, in some cases, exceeded the health guidelines and state workplace directives issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Oregon Health Authority, Multnomah County Health Department, the City of Portland and the state of Oregon. COVID-19 safety protocols include, among others, completing mandatory health assessments and temperature checks before reporting to work; wearing face coverings inside fire station common areas and work facilities as well as outside; and adhering to 6 feet of physical distancing in non-emergency situations when possible.

City of Portland Commissioner in charge of PF&R, Jo Anne Hardesty, had the following to say regarding the recent developments: "I take the health and well-being of our firefighters seriously. The daily risk that first responders take has been compounded by this pandemic and I want to express my deepest appreciation to our firefighters serving during this time. I also want to thank Chief Boone for her proactive efforts to protect our firefighters and minimize exposure when COVID-19 first hit our communities."

PF&R is committed to keeping the public well informed of any issues that could affect emergency response and will continue to monitor its workforce carefully, particularly considering the recent spikes in COVID-19 cases across Oregon and the nation.