Firefighters, first responders need more masks for COVID-19 pandemic

Mar 31, 2020, 5:33 PM | Updated: 5:57 pm

South Salt Lake first responders COVID-19...

Photo credit: Getty Images.

SOUTH SALT LAKE, Utah — South Salt Lake Fire Chief Terry Addison says his department has some first responder masks and personal protective gear. But they need more.

They’re one of many fire departments, police, and first responders in Utah who are struggling to find additional N95 masks to protect them from the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus.

READ MORE: Facts, not fear: KSL NewsRadio’s coronavirus resource center

Addison says South Salt Lake and Salt Lake County are trying to help find some extra personal protective equipment for these employees, but there is a nationwide shortage.

“We’re about number three on the priority [list]. It comes down to healthcare, long term care facilities, then emergency responders,” Addison said.

Why first responder masks are so important

However, he worries about paramedics and other first responders unknowingly getting and giving COVID-19 coronavirus.

“When somebody calls 9-1-1, the firefighters, the paramedics, the EMS workers, and police officers are responding. And if that person has symptoms or they’re asymptomatic, that could lead to the emergency responder contracting the virus,” Addison said.

This means paramedics and other first responders may have to self-quarantine during a pandemic when they’re needed the most.

“Eventually, if it continues to spread, there could not be a workforce, and we want to prevent that,” Addison said.

Chief Addison says they have enough first responder masks to get them through the next 21 days — if people continue to follow state and local guidelines and practice social distancing.

However, at this time South Salt Lake firefighters are not accepting homemade masks from the public. Because of regulations and the nature of their job right now, they need N95 masks.

People who have new, unused N95 masks can try to donate them to firefighters.

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Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

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Firefighters, first responders need more masks for COVID-19 pandemic