According to a report WFAA, on Monday, Dallas (TX) Fire-Rescue (DFR) and the Dallas Fire Fighters Association (DFFA) reported an additional 21 members of the department now quarantined because of COVID-19, bringing the total number of DFR members recently affected with the virus to 31.
DFR is now trying to navigate a legal tightrope involving Governor Greg Abbott’s recent executive order banning local municipalities and counties from mandating mask wearing, which is causing greater concerns about the virus among those in the department.
Current CDC guidelines say that fully vaccinated people should get tested 3-5 days following a known exposure to the virus. In addition, someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days after exposure or until he or she achieves a negative test result.
Because DFR cannot mandate masks or create a protocol requiring vaccinated firefighters to wear them at the station while waiting for a test, DFFA President Jim McDade says potentially vaccinated firefighters must now stay at home when exposed per Abbott’s order.
McDade also said the DFR is examining the legality of Abbott’s order, which would include allowing members to volunteer to the department that they’re fully vaccinated, so they don’t have to quarantine and can be on duty in a firehouse with a mask.
Abbott’s order does allow departments to wear masks while responding to a call, McDade stressed. But there is a gray area regarding the firehouses.
DFR Spokesman Jason Evans, DFR only had three COVID-19 cases in June, but that number went up to 29 for July.
For August, three cases have already been reported. Two hospitalizations have been recorded since June.
Evans said DFR has approximately 900 fully vaccinated members, although McDade included that the department isn’t keeping track of which members are and aren’t vaccinated.
The Fort Worth Fire Department (FWFD) also reported an uptick in cases, but they did not provide specific numbers as of Monday.
However, FWFD Spokesman Mike Drivdahl said that each department station is now on full alert. Dallas and Fort Worth police have also seen an increase in COVID-19 cases as well.
According to McDade, Abbott’s order allows fire departments to wear masks while responding to a call. However, there is gray areas regarding the fire stations.
McDade continued, saying that the Delta variant is one of the leading causes of the increase in cases. He said that a few weeks ago, DFR had no cases.
Evans added that DFR had just three COVID-19 cases in June, but that number increased to 29 during July.
Just two days into August, three cases have been reported, with two hospitalizations being recorded since June.