What It’s Like to Be a First Responder During COVID-19

For many of us, our view of COVID-19 is through a screen. We watch the nightly news, or read articles and reports on a laptop, or catch the headlines scrolling through Twitter. 

But the brave men and women on the front lines of public safety and health care have quite a different view, one that is up close and personal. First responders, as well as nurses, doctors and other health care professionals, are living the news daily. 

“We are just coming to work and doing our job,” a Los Angeles County firefighter told The Daily Signal in a phone interview. “We are happy to do our job. It is especially challenging, but we are an all-risk agency … we train as much as we can train, and other than that, we kind of have to figure out as we go.” 

Los Angeles County has reported 10,047 COVID-19 cases and 360 deaths to date. 

One of the central challenges first responders are facing is fighting a deadly enemy that cannot be seen. When an individual with COVID-19 is transported to the hospital, the medical equipment used on the patient, the gurney the patient is transported on, and even the ambulance itself become possible carriers of the virus. 

“Blood, you can see. Blood, you can clean. You know it’s there. You know when you got it all, and that’s kind of nice. But with this, we are wiping stuff down and hoping we got it all, but it’s a challenge,” said the firefighter, who asked that his name not be used. 

In between calls, he said, “we try to wipe down our rig [as] best as we can, and all of our gear [as] best as we can … we are being especially diligent during these times, but, you know, it’s weird, because we are fighting an invisible enemy.” President Donald Trump has also referred to the coronavirus as such.

The first responder said people should avoid hospital visits if they can right now, and even try to limit contact with people like himself, who are exposed to coronavirus patients. 

“A lot of people still call us to maybe come check on them, because they want peace of mind, but I don’t think they realize that we are in and out of the hospital as much as we are,” the firefighter said. “I have taken multiple confirmed-positive patients to the hospital. … By no means do I want people to not call 911 if they are having an emergency. … But we are just one more exposure.” 

In the situations of milder cases, the brunt of caregiving in the battle against COVID-19 will be delivered by civil society as a whole, he said, adding:

We live in a time right now where very much the public at large is going effectively to be doing most of the work. We deal with a very small slice of very sick people, but all the social distancing and people wearing masks and washing their hands and doing all these things, that’s really what is going to help us and the greater good.

We will continue to help those really sick people, but hopefully, the people who are a little less sick can rely on their family and their friends and their smaller units.

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