HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting the Henrico County Fire Department as 20 firefighters are out due to positive test results or potential exposure to the virus.
"Seven firefighters have tested positive for the coronavirus and are isolated at their homes," a spokesperson for the county wrote in an email. "Another 13 are in quarantine after testing negative but being identified as at-risk for exposure through contact tracing."
The firefighters will be in quarantine until early January, the county added.
Henrico Fire Chief Alec Oughton said the nature of the job requires firefighters to work in close quarters and interact with people who may be infected.
"Our members understand that we can’t do our jobs from a distance,” he said. “Providing the best service and care possible heightens our risk of exposure, but we are committed to serving and protecting our community."
The 20 firefighters who either tested positive or were exposed mainly worked the B-shift at six of Henrico's 21 fire stations.
"Firehouses typically are staffed by five to eight firefighters per 24-hour shift. More than 600 certified firefighters serve in the Division of Fire," the email from the county spokesperson continued. "All firehouses have undergone deep cleaning and disinfection, including living quarters, common areas, apparatus, and equipment, since the beginning of the pandemic."
The county is working to ensure staffing levels are maintained at each firehouse.
"Should a firehouse need to be removed from service temporarily due to a shortage of available firefighters, service would be provided from another firehouse in accordance with comprehensive contingency plans developed by the division," the email continued.