The Charlotte Observer
Two people are hospitalized after a COVID-19 outbreak slammed a North Carolina fire department, officials said.
Of the firefighters that contracted COVID-19, nine are still sick, WSOC reported. Two of those firefighters are reportedly in the hospital.
“We keep those who continue to deal with COVID in our thoughts,” the Albemarle Fire Department said Monday in a Facebook post. “We appreciate all the community support, thoughts, and well-wishes.”
The city of Albemarle, roughly 40 miles northeast of Charlotte, said it first learned someone had tested positive for COVID-19 on July 9 but doesn’t have “definitive information” about the outbreak’s origin, The Stanly News & Press reported.
As of Monday, the city reported “no new cases in the last few days” and said some affected employees had started to return to work.
“All three fire station locations continue to be staffed and provide services,” the Albemarle Fire Department wrote on Facebook. “We are taking precautions to keep the public and our staff safe as we provide emergency services.”
As some workers remain sick with COVID-19, officials said they are looking to other agencies for relief.
“Just as we delivered staffing assistance recently to the Kannapolis Fire Department in their time of need, the Kannapolis Fire Department will be providing staffing relief to the Albemarle Fire Department,” officials said Monday. “The Office of State Fire Marshal is also working with us to provide and coordinate assistance.”
It’s not the first time a COVID-19 outbreak has hit an emergency agency in North Carolina.
In January, a coronavirus cluster was reported at a Western North Carolina police department just days after it was part of a COVID-19 vaccine clinic. A month earlier, cases were also linked to a 911 center and a sheriff’s office in the area.
Though first responders were among the first people eligible to be vaccinated in the state, several fire departments told The News & Observer earlier this year that they didn’t require workers to get their shots. Albemarle Fire Department didn’t mention its vaccine policy or the number of workers on staff in its Facebook post.
Health officials have encouraged people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as the delta variant spreads and as the state this week reached the highest number of coronavirus-related hospitalizations in more than a month.
Officials from the Albemarle Fire Department and the city manager’s office didn’t immediately respond to McClatchy News’ requests for comment on Tuesday.