New Norm in the Fire Service?

At a year into this pandemic we are far from slowing down, things actually seem to be ramping up.  Just recently I saw on the news that a fourth strain is out and doubling masks is now the new recommendation.  I think we all believed that after a vaccination was developed and distributed, we would see a slow down in infections however regardless of call volume or hospitalizations it seems we are continuing forward with maximum caution. 


From my limited window, it appears that hospitalizations have decreased dramatically and those that are infected have very little downtime with mild to moderate symptoms.  There are the occasional cases obviously, but treatment and outcomes have been much more favorable.  Using my own department as a study, 3 out of 5 positives are symptom free and those exhibiting symptoms are back to full strength by the end of the week.  This is in no way a downplay of the seriousness of the virus, however as a care provider it seems the narrative of the media does not line up with what we are encountering on the streets.  Many of my coworkers also work in the hospitals and have the same opinions.  This information is great in my eyes since I feel we don’t need to live in dire fear of COVID-19 Virus yet we must always protect ourselves and our families, but will we ever return to normal?  In my opinion - No.


Working through some of the past illnesses that have come our way I never saw this type of response.  Swine flu, Bird Flu, Ebola just to name a few, we did business as usual and took precautions to protect ourselves, yet with this new virus it seems we have taken things to a whole new level which would make one think…. Did we downplay everything else?  Not to get into stats and numbers but I was far more cautious of Ebola than Corona Virus and with good reason.  If you saw people infected with Ebola you would be too but now we are taking extreme measures and using tons of resources in order to deal with the Corona Virus which doesn’t really measure up to some of the others. 

Now, after evaluating the big picture I do believe there is some good that will come from all this.  Firstly, we were very unprepared for a biological outbreak.  Equipment, PPE, cleaning supplies were nearly exhausted after a few weeks into this pandemic.  We were not properly prepared, and god forbid we had something that was truly as virulent as we are being led to believe we could have been in some real trouble.  Luckily, most departments had some old PPE from previous outbreaks to weather the storm but as a nation we were ill prepared.  I do think that this problem will be solved, and it will be common practice to keep a supply and inventory of equipment needed in order to keep our front line (essential personnel) prepared adequately to handle any situation that may come in the future.


I do not foresee us reversing our protection level going forward.  Similar to the 80’s when it was realized that bloodborne pathogens could be transferred to first responders we began using gloves and now that is the first thing we do on calls, glove up and use eye protection in order to prevent illness/infection.  After seeing what a few positive infections can do to a workforce, I just don’t see it feasible to risk those caring for the citizens to be out of work quarantined for two weeks.  That being said, I believe the masks, and cleaning and social distancing is here to stay.  Does it suck to be in a mask all day while at work? YES.  Does it suck to wear owns and face masks on every call? YES.  But we have an obligation to our community and we must be healthy in order to provide our service.  So, we must continue forward, using our common sense and tools provided to stay protected.  No one wants to bring anything home to their families and we already lose to many people to the dangers of the job already so let’s do our part and comply with our “new norm” and man, do I hate using that term.  Well that’s it for now, if you have any comments please leave them below and as always, stay safe out there.

Jason S.

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