Organizations in eastern CT push for weekly COVID testing for first responders

Coronavirus

GROTON, Conn. (WTNH)– Several organizations in eastern Connecticut are hoping to get weekly COVID screenings for first responders.

On any given day, EMS crews and firefighters can respond to several medical and other emergencies. So far they say response has not been affected by COVID cases among themselves and they want to keep it that way.

“How nervous am I on a scale of one to ten? I’m at about seven right now,” said Maria Wilson, President of Region 4 EMS Council.

She is hoping to keep the COVID cases, which are now in about four EMS agencies, in eastern Connecticut from spreading more among the ranks.

“We eat dinners together,” said Wilson. “Shifts will sleep at the stations together.” 

She recently wrote a letter in an effort to get funding for weekly in-station COVID screenings.

“My concern is if we’re not doing some surveillance screening, we’re going to start to see unfortunately what happened in the New London fire department happen in other agencies,” said Wilson.

New London’s Fire Chief tells News 8 a total 12 firefighters have tested positive. Weekly screenings and a new hospital grade thermometer have helped to identify more potential risks.

“The Commissioner of Public Health and I have corresponded and have had conversations about it,” said Senator Heather Somers, (R) Groton.

She is among several lawmakers hoping to help.

“We either have to fund it to allow them I believe to do their own testing, which I think they have safety protocols in place, they should be able to do that or we have to have a better system where they can have a standing appointment at a certain time,” said Sen. Somers.

On Friday afternoon, the Ledge Light Health District will be conducting COVID tests at the City of Groton Municipal building and then again on Saturday morning at Rocky Neck State Park. Wilson says at both locations there will be a priority line set up for first responders.

Ideally though in-house testing would work best for the many volunteers who already work other full-time jobs with little free time to wait in long lines.

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