MARION COUNTY, Fla. – After receiving dozens of calls a shift related to the coronavirus pandemic, Marion County Fire Rescue dedicated three rescue crews outfitted with personal protective equipment to respond to calls about the highly-contagious virus known as COVID-19.
Marion County Fire Rescue has three coronavirus response teams, near Ocala, Spruce Creek and On Top of the World.
The crews wear masks, gloves, goggles and a gown and the patient compartment of the rescue vehicles are sealed off from the driver’s cab, according to fire rescue officials.
“We are prepared to deploy additional COVID-19 response rescues as call volume dictates,” Fire Chief James Banta said. "Although there are only three dedicated COVID-19 rescues now, each of our 35 other rescues are prepared to respond to these, and our normal call volume.”
After responding to a COVID-19 call, crew members thoroughly sanitize each vehicle each suspected COVID-19 call.
“Whether they are over the age of 60 or they are 20 years old, all our trucks are capable of running these calls and protecting themselves accordingly,” Marion County Fire Rescue Training Safety Division Chief Drew Rogers said.
Firefighters and paramedics on these crews are required to self-monitor and report back twice a day as to whether they have any symptoms.
Dispatchers are also asking patients to meet the crews outside of their homes, if possible.
According to the fire rescue, since March 26 they are receiving an average of 33 coronavirus calls per shift.
“We’ve been running roughly 30 to 40 COVID-19 responses per day," Rogers said. “It’s been an incredible growth and adjustment for Marion County Fire Rescue, every day seems to be a new challenge that comes up for us.”
As of Monday night, Marion County had 23 confirmed cases of the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus.
COVID-19 testing is available within Marion County. Anyone who thinks they have been exposed or are showing symptoms should call the Marion County Department of Health’s 24/7 COVID-19 hotline at 352-644-2590 to schedule an appointment for testing.