NAPLES, Fla. — Confronting Covid-19 while serving in public safety.
It’s an issue that presented itself when the pandemic first hit and now- with the rise in variants- it could be causing problems for police and firefighters. For those with Naples Fire-Rescue, it’s business as usual. The department is carrying out their duties as Covid-19 appears to make a comeback in Southwest Florida.
“We haven’t had to cut back on staff, yet," says Pete DiMaria, Fire Chief with Naples Fire-Rescue Department. "We do have some members who are out, some under observation, some are Covid positive but, fortunately, we’ve been able to cover all of our shifts fairly easily right now.”
DiMaria says while they haven’t had to cut back on staff, they do need to plan for the scenario.
“At this point, we’re at a good position," he says. "We’re not having those discussions yet but it’s always something that when you think of ‘worst case scenario.’ You think about that and say what would we have to do if we just didn’t have enough staffing and that would be one option- is to shut down one or more of our units to make sure that we were able to respond at least with some personnel. It’s affecting our community pretty drastically right now. ”
Just down the road at the Greater Naples Fire Department, they’ve had to delay the opening of their new station due to Covid related staffing issues. In Lee County, the Sheriff’s Office announced the recent passing of one of their officers due to medical complications related to Covid-19.
According to an officer memorial web page, 22 law enforcement officers have passed away due to the virus in Florida and more than 500 nationwide. It’s because of the pandemic law enforcement haven’t been able to shelter or quarantine.
“Our hearts go out to that officer and his family," said DiMaria. "We have experienced loss here, we lost a firefighter last year to Covid and we know how the family must feel and we know how the agency must feel. It’s never easy to deal with that kind of loss to one of our brothers in the public safety business.”
And there’s a way, as DiMaria says, for the public to do their part.
“Everyone should really consider how to help our communities be good citizens, good neighbors. Get your vaccine- if not- wear your mask. Your mask can certainly help protect others and we encourage that strongly and wish that everybody would put their mask on for someone else, some family member.”