Memphis first responders feel impacts of COVID-19

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting first responders across Memphis as well as the community.

During a COVID-19 task force meeting with Mayor Jim Strickland on Monday, Memphis Fire Director Gina Sweat explained people working in her department on facing the virus on the frontlines.

“In my 28 years, I’ve never experienced anything like this,” Sweat said.

The director broke down the numbers of how many first responders were infected with the virus.

21 commissioned officers and six civilian employees of the Memphis Police Department tested positive for the virus. The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office is dealing with 15 positive cases and the fire department has had 19 positive cases, seven of which recovered and returned to work.

The fire department’s recruitment class had two positive cases at the training center.

Hundreds of first responders across all departments have been quarantined due to the virus. However, Sweat says there is not a staffing shortage.

“I’ve even had retirees call me that would be willing to come back to work if we had need for that,” Sweat said.

She did say she did ask her staff to reuse their masks. According to Sweat, the masks can be used multiple times unless the person becomes infected.

Sweat says issues like that are not unique to the Memphis Fire Department. People across the country as asked to make due with what they have. An order came in last week and another is on the way.

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