But, with the city now hitting at least 271 confirmed COVID-19 cases at the filing of this report, many first responders and hospital workers are also worried about possibly infecting their families when they go home after their long shift on the frontlines of the coronavirus outbreak.
“The thought of possibly bringing this home to my kids — I have two young kids,” said Jeff Nesta, a paramedic with Trinity Health of New England. “That adds to the amount of stress.”
The City and Post University are coming to their aid. Friday, two dorms at Post University were being disinfected and thoroughly cleaned in order to open for first responders to stay.
One will be for first responders who have tested positive for COVID-19. So far, at least three Waterbury police officers have.
The other dorm will be for first responders who need a close place to rest and relax after a long shift.
News 8 asked Waterbury’s Director of Emergency Management how important each dorm is, starting with the one for emergency workers who test positive.
“There’s also a quarantine factor to that so what it will do is it’ll allow people to separate from their families, have a good space to be in — a space where they can contact their families,” said Adam Rinko. “We have protocols set up in place where they can get things from their families. There’s internet and all sorts of amenities that Post has been kind enough to give.”
We also asked about the importance of a dorm that first responders and hospital workers can use for rest and relaxation.
“Doing this is going to bring great relief to them and their families,” Rinko said. “We’ve heard stories in New York; people not being able to go home, people trying to find places to stay so they don’t infect their families after being all day, sometimes double, triple shifts…..we have a lot of hospital workers who live a long way from their hospitals.”
Post University’s President and CEO explained to News 8 why he felt compelled to help out.
“I actually happened to see on a news program a doctor who was sleeping in his garage because he was hesitant to go in and infect his family,” said John Hopkins, President & CEO of Post University. “He wasn’t sick, but it’s high risk. And I thought, you know, we have empty dorms, we’re part of this Waterbury community, there’s something that we can do.”
The dorms have lounge areas that will be stocked with new TVs. Some of the rooms are actually suites with sofas and kitchens.
The first first responders could move in as early as this weekend. Hopkins says Post University is also planning to make other dorms available for the city’s two hospitals should they get overrun with patients in the weeks ahead.
“It’s an unbelievable gesture on their part,” Rinko said. “We’re very happy they did this.”
“These first responders what they’re doing is just amazing,” Hopkins said. “It’s one of the most selfless things you can do.”