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Jacksonville firefighter tests positive for COVID-19

JFRD chief says 63 employees are off the job for coronavirus-related issues

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A firefighter who worked out of Jacksonville’s largest fire station who was off the job after showing symptoms of coronavirus five days ago has now tested positive for the disease, Mayor Lenny Curry announced Thursday.

Because of that, 47 firefighters and paramedics from all three shifts of Station 28 on Hogan Road are self-quarantining and will be tested for COVID-19 while the station is being thoroughly sanitized. JFRD Chief Keith Powers said the department was reaching out to anyone who had firsthand contact with the firefighter.

Powers also said those firefighters were among 63 JFRD employees currently off the job due to coronavirus-related issues.

“They’re putting their own health in jeopardy responding to this community and that makes me proud as a chief,” Powers said. “They’re out there taking care of us every day.”

Randy Wyse, president of the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters hopes tests show the other firefighters at Station 28 are healthy so they can get back to work.

“I know in town already there are some quick tests that you could have a quick turnaround time, maybe in 24 hours or less,” Wyse said. “That would be the main thing, to have these members there that are quarantined tested as soon as possible to give them peace of mind and possibly come back to work.”

Police, city also stretched responding to pandemic

Sheriff Mike Williams had said earlier in the week that he has dozens of employees off the job for coronavirus-related reasons -- either travel-related or suspected exposure to someone who has the disease -- at a time when calls for service have increased by 150 to 200 per day.

“We are experiencing about a 20% increase in domestic violence,” Williams said. “Obviously, that’s probably the rhetoric directly related to the quarantine and people spending more time together. And then we’ve seen some uptakes and street violence.”

Curry also announced Thursday that federal COVID-19 testing at Lot J of TIAA Bank Field will end Saturday. But after the site is closed on Easter Sunday, the state will reopen the site at 9 a.m. Monday and, from the public’s perspective, nothing will change other than the daily limit on tests will rise from 250 to 400.

Curry said his remaining two years in office will be focused on mitigation efforts from this virus and getting the city and its economy back on track. He said “politics is dead” as a result of the pandemic, which he called a life-changing event, adding "our response will define us as a people.”

Asked how the city will find the money for the response, Curry said the last thing he would want to do is burden the citizens with more taxes.


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