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Ten New London firefighters test positive for COVID-19

New London — Mayor Michael Passero confirmed Sunday that 10 city firefighters have tested positive for COVID-19, and four are awaiting test results. One person on staff also has the common flu.

Passero said it started with one firefighter who was exposed to the virus and tested positive about a week ago. Fire Chief Thomas Curcio said that everyone in the department who has since contracted the virus worked with the one or two initial people who had been infected.

Some of the firefighters will be back to work next week, Passero said. All 14 firefighters are currently quarantining.

Curcio noted that the first positive tests stemmed from department headquarters at 289 Bank St.

“The stations get mixed together because of the way the shifts work,” Passero said. “They don’t always work in their assigned station. When they go on a call, they all will converge at the same place.”

Both Curcio and Passero say fire coverage has been unaffected aside from firefighters taking on extra hours. None of the city’s fire stations are closed or set to close, Curcio said, denying a rumor on social media.

“The members have really stepped up: They’re covering each other’s shifts, they’re working multiple shifts in addition to their regular 24, so sometimes they’re there for 48 hours,” Curcio said. “We’ve made some adjustments to our staffing to have critical jobs like the ambulances covered, then it’s a little easier to fill the engine companies and ladder truck because we have more resources to fill those jobs.”

Passero said he is unsure of the exact financial impact of firefighters possibly working overtime.

Firefighters are required to wear masks at all times, whether in the station or on the job.

“We were prepared for this,” Passero said. “I don’t want to say it was inevitable, we worked very hard to avoid it, but as soon as it started to spread, we did contact tracing, and we got people isolated. Some of the employees were not comfortable going home to their families, so we got them rooms in a hotel.”

Not including administrative staff, New London has 64 firefighter positions, though Passero said a few positions are currently unfilled.

Curcio said that the department has been testing its staff regularly, and a bit more often recently, and the department is in touch with Ledge Light Health District to determine a consistent testing schedule. Firefighter temperatures are monitored at the beginning of each shift.

“We caught one employee with these new thermometers we got this week — we found out the ones that the state issued were not accurate at all, so we went out and bought hospital-grade thermometers,” Curcio said. “Just this last Thursday, we caught an employee coming into the building with that target temperature, and sure enough, we send him home, and he tests positive. We’re doing everything we can to keep it out of the firehouse.”

Curcio also said morale among firefighters is good at the moment.

“We’re hanging in there,” he said. “The guys have had positive attitudes, everyone’s been more than cooperative. We’re essential workers, we’re here to do the job, and we will be there, and we will get it done.”

s.spinella@theday.com

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