Kirkland, WA – City officials have confirmed the number of firefighters and police officers exposed to coronavirus has grown to 30, and now 12 of those first responders have shown “flu-like” symptoms.
The city of Kirkland initially put out a press release that confirmed 25 Kirkland firefighters and two Kirkland police officers had been placed under quarantine “out of an abundance of caution” after they were exposed to the virus at a nursing home.
That number grew to 30 on Monday, KOMO reported.
Kirkland has become the epicenter of the coronavirus in the United States, after a 50-year-old man infected man became the first U.S. death from the virus, The Washington Post reported.
The firefighters and police officers were exposed to the virus at the LifeCare Center of Kirkland, where more than 50 residents and staff have tested positive for coronavirus, KIRO reported.
Five people associated with the LifeCare Center have already died from coronavirus, KOMO reported.
Kirkland Fire Station 21 has been shut down to house the first responders under quarantine who cannot, or don’t want to, go into home quarantine for fear of infecting others who live in the same residence.
One firefighter was just released after completing his 14-day quarantine and remaining asymptomatic, KOMO reported.
“I would like to specifically acknowledge the outstanding work of our firefighters during these events,” Kirkland City Manager Kurt Triplett said when the quarantine was first announced. “They have been doing their job and assisting people in this care facility for the past few weeks. At the recommendation of Public Health, this has meant that any firefighters who responded to a call at the facility is in quarantine due to an abundance of caution.”
When the announcement was first made, the city said none of the firefighters or police officer had exhibited symptoms.
By March 3, the situation had changed and city officials sent out another press release.
“This remains a dynamic event,” the city said. “We currently have twenty-six firefighters and three police officers in quarantine. One firefighter was released Monday after completing their recommended quarantine period. All twenty-nine are linked to responses to incidents at the Life Center of Kirkland.”
“Twelve first responders are showing flu-like symptoms, and nineteen have confirmed direct exposure,” the press release continued. “Most are in isolation or quarantine at home. Fire Station 21 continues to be kept offline and is available to firefighters for quarantine, and we have identified an additional building for isolation.”
The city said the fire department was still fully staffed and that personnel from Fire Station 21 who were not exposed to coronavirus had been assigned to other fire houses.
There are signs on the doors of Fire Station 21 warning people – including firefighters – not to enter, KIRO reported.
Neighboring fire departments will be providing additional support as more than one-quarter of the 100-person Kirkland Fire Department remains under quarantine.
“We have excellent relationships with our regional fire departments, and we’re making sure we have all the conversations in place, so if we need assistance from our partners, that can be provided,” city spokesperson Kellie Stickney told KIRO.
The city said in the latest press release that all Kirkland first responders “have CDC recommended personal protection equipment and are following recommended protocols.”
“Our number one priority is ensuring the safety of our community and first responders,” Kirkland Fire Chief Joe Sanford said. “I’m so proud of our first responders who have stepped up to make sure that our community is still receiving the highest level of service.”