Tulsa Fire Chief Michael Baker said at a Wednesday press conference that 17 members of the Tulsa Fire Department have tested positive for COVID-19.
"We are not immune to the effects of this increase in cases in the city," Baker said. "We're a very high-contact population of workers."
Baker said the 17 firefighters who tested positive are under quarantine, as are an additional 51 who were potentially exposed to the virus. None have so far required hospitalization and many are asymptomatic, he said.
"Fortunately, with good staffing numbers, we are able to have a complete backfill of staffing so no stations are closed and no operations are being impacted," Baker said.
Baker said that it is not believed that the firefighters who tested positive contracted the virus while responding to emergency calls. He said that strict guidelines on personal protective equipment, distancing, new protocols for shift changes to minimize close contact and other measures are all being followed to minimize spread.
"We are a critical community resource that has to be in place, and we need healthy members," Baker said. "We also move from home to home, and it's important that we are healthy when we come to your house for a medical emergency or a fire response."
Last month, a firehouse at 3600 North Peoria briefly closed for cleaning after a member exhibited symptoms of COVID-19 and was presumed positive. At that time, 36 firefighters were placed under quarantine. Baker said that firefighter was thought to have contracted the virus at a wedding.