BLACKSTONE, Va. (WRIC) — An official source has told 8News that 10 volunteer people from the Blackstone Volunteer Fire Department have tested positive for the virus — that is two more cases than reported earlier this morning.
Fire Chief Dion Tomer said seven of the positive tests are firefighters and the rest are support staff. He said three of the cases are experiencing flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headache and body aches, but the others are asymptomatic.
“One of our members has received treatment through his primary care provider for his COVID symptoms,” the chief said in an email.
Since these are volunteers, the chief said the firefighters will not receive any workman’s compensation package and will be out of work during the quarantine.
“This will place even more stress upon them as individuals and their families,” Tomer said.
He said they have requested that all members self-monitor for any symptoms of COVID-19, and several people in the department are still waiting on test results.
The department announced the outbreak in a Facebook post on Monday. They said due to the recent weather, many members had to spend several days and overnights in the station in order to be sure they could respond quickly to citizen’s calls.
“Our station is not equipped with sleeping quarters so many members used couches, cots, and air mattresses throughout the living quarters to sleep,” Tomer told 8News. “Sadly, we are finding out that we have members testing positive for COVID-19.”
The Facebook post admitted members did not wear their masks 24/7 while inside the station.
“While some may place prejudice against our lack of mask-wearing, I ensure you, when it comes to ensuring your safety on our responses to your emergency, we used every precaution during this Pandemic,” the post said.
The department prepared food for public servants during the recent power outage, but said during their meal deliveries their exposure time was limited. The CDC defines an exposure as being within 6-feet of someone for 15 minutes or longer.
BVFD said it is “undergoing decontamination” and also adjusting protocols to ensure that all members wear N95 masks instead of surgical masks to any emergencies.
The department does not believe this outbreak will have a direct impact on service calls; however, other local stations including Fort Pickett Fire and Rescue, Crewe Volunteer Fire, and Burkeville Fire Department are on standby.
“Once again, we are heartbroken concerning the events that have unfolded and our only desire was to ensure the safety and comfort of others during this storm,” Tomer said. “We certainly wish the best of health and safety to each and everyone.”
Chief Tomer said the Nottoway County Emergency Operations Center is in the process of closing down currently and are asking people to call 434-645-8696 instead.