Brothers and Sisters,
As we begin the week, we would like to update you on a few critical items related to the COVID-19 response.
For your Union, testing is our number one priority for our members and your Union Board has been working diligently to address the need for widespread immediate testing within our first responder community. We need to know the scope of our exposure and we cannot do that without widely available testing for all exposed.
Today, Los Angeles County together with our LA City partners and our own Dr. Clayton Kazan, who is leading this effort, announced the launch of a new partnership with Seegene Technologies, Inc., a South Korea-based test kit manufacturer, to purchase and process 20,000 new tests for the Coronavirus. This is part of a larger partnership and efforts to provide widespread testing for the public within LA County. This is a four-phase roll out with first responders being the priority for phase 1. The first 20,000 tests will be dedicated to our first responder communities. These tests will also have a much quicker turnaround. Click here to view the full press conference.
While this testing will significantly help our efforts to protect and treat our members, it is not the cureall and it is not the answer to prevention. Testing protocols must take into consideration the long incubation period for this virus and the possibilities of false negatives. The Union, the Department, and Dr. Clayton Kazan are working diligently to ensure that all our members who are exposed to this virus are able to have appropriate care. We commend Dr. Kazan and LA County Board of Supervisors for embracing the plan crafted by Dr. Kazan and input from the Union, the Department Executive Staff and EMS experts which has the proper testing with 24-hour results vs. 5-day turn-a-round. There is also a priority for Fire and reduced chances for “false-negatives” in the early stages of Covid-19 incubation. Using these tests along with signs and symptoms, Daily Checks, and the use of our PPE policies and procedures will be a combined set of tools we need to stay safe while we do our jobs.
EXPOSURE REPORTING GUIDELINES AND STANDARDS
The Department put out a guide on exposure reporting that may have been interpreted to not report exposures to Covid-19 or any other communicable disease call or bio-hazard call. We have contacted the Department and there will be clarification sent out, but the Covid-19 exposure reporting for Covid-19 triage and exposure data is separate and distinctly different than NORMAL AND ROUTINE EXPOSURE REPORTING. ALL MEMBERS ARE REMINDED TO REPORT EXPOSURES TO FIRE AND COMMUNICABLE DISEASES AND STRESS RELATED CALLS AS YOU NORMALLY WOULD REPORT THEM ON THE WORKER INJURY FORMS AND ON NFIRS AND ANY OTHER ONLINE PER REPORTING SYSTEM YOU MAY USE REGARDLESS OF IF YOU HAD ALL PROPER PPE IN PLACE.
THE CRITICAL IMPORTANCE OF PPE
We cannot emphasize enough that the best defense you have against the spread of this virus is your PPE equipment. THIS IS NOT THE REGULAR FLU. We need to take this very seriously. As firefighters, we often downplay things that have become normalized to us through our job. This is not one of those items. Follow all the Department and Public Health recommendations for PPE and report exposure even if you have your full PPE on for the call. Just as you would if you responded to a fire. You need to report exposure.
While at work please pay close attention to the EA’s and Union emails that give direction on how to use proper PPE’s while serving our patients. This issue is real and we must aggressively and diligently use the tools and the knowledge to stay safe on the front lines.
In general, please remember to do the following:
- Place a Mask on the Patients and Consider and 95 masks on you.
- Limit the number of Crew who have direct contact with the patient
- Wear Gowns and Mask and Goggles where Indicated.
- Wash your hands regularly while on calls and at the station
- Maintain Social Distancing while at work
- Clean surfaces at work regularly and often
- Wash clothes and uniforms at work regularly and rotate clothes regularly
- AVOID IBUPROFEN. Preliminary results indicate that there may be a correlation to the use of Ibuprofen and the morbidity rate. Steer clear just in case, doctor’s orders (Kazan).
Click below to view the training videos from the Department on risk and proper use of PPE equipment.
You may have heard rumors of staffing plans to cover our post-positions both for our regular service needs and also emergent service needs such as a more robust drawdown of personnel due to Covid-19 exposure, or strike-team needs in the mutual aid system for California. The Union has been meeting with the Department and crafting drafts of what such a staffing plan would look like.
Everything from how to use 40-hour personnel to use of bodies from all battalions to cover the staffing, up to and including a two-platoon system are on the table and heavily developed as options in draft form. Also in the discussion are trigger points to implement such staffing plans. The Department has a right to declare “emergency” and set staffing levels in a unilateral manner under management’s rights in all agencies in California, but they must be careful in invoking those rights for two reasons: legal and MOU compliance issues. If we are at pre-Covid numbers relative to staffing levels and need, any such breach of staffing agreements in the MOU are violations enforceable by administrative or legal action under meet and confer bargaining.
The Union recognizes that we also must be ready to staff our engines, trucks, squads, dispatch centers, heavy equipment in air and wildland, staff the fire prevention bureaus and health hazmat bureaus and be ready for wildland response given the potential for having our members out as a result of Covid-19. We have been collaborating and working with the Department to ensure we have a plan we can all agree upon and more importantly trigger points for implementation. More as this discussion and the drafts become adopted, but rest assured we are ready.
More this week, but Recruit Class 156 has launched and plans for 5 more classes are in play and a priority we are working on. Watch for a Friday message with details and know that filling the vacancies remains a top priority even in the face of the Covid-19 crisis.
We implore our members to continue to take this pandemic seriously and follow all PPE policies and procedures and take steps to keep social distancing and hygiene procedures a top priority. Your safety and the safety of those who may not fare well with this novel virus is at stake.
Stay safe and please take care of one another as we navigate this uncertain and difficult time.