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Coronavirus fears in O.C. ease: Firefighters out of isolation after patient tests negative

The newly renovated Orange County Fire Authority Station 61 is directly across from Knott’s Berry Fa
An Orange County Fire Authority station is seen in Buena Park. An OCFA crew at a station in Irvine has been removed from isolation amid coronavirus fears.
(Kevin Chang / Times Community News)

Four Orange County firefighters who had been placed in isolation at an Irvine fire station after treating a patient with symptoms similar to those of coronavirus were sent home Monday evening after the patient tested negative for the virus.

The Orange County Fire Authority crew was placed in isolation at the station Saturday night after responding to a medical call during which they encountered a patient who had traveled internationally and was showing symptoms similar to coronavirus.

The person was taken to a hospital and has since tested negative for the virus, said Colleen Windsor, the Fire Authority’s director of communications.

There has not been any outbreak of the coronavirus in the county so far, although one resident has tested positive for the illness. That individual has since fully recovered, according to health officials.

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This isn’t the first time first responders have potentially been exposed to the disease. In Seattle, more than 25 firefighters have been quarantined after visiting a nursing home that is at the center of a coronavirus outbreak there, according to the International Assn. of Fire Fighters.

Paul Biddinger, director of emergency preparedness research at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said that first responders such as firefighters need to remember to take basic measures such as washing their hands and avoiding touching their face.

“I understand when you’re out on an ambulance how hard it is to talk about hand hygiene or protection, but it’s extremely important,” Biddinger said in a forum Monday hosted by Harvard’s public health school and broadcast online.

Last week, Orange County declared a local health emergency in response to the novel coronavirus, a move that was largely in response to a proposal to move coronavirus patients to Fairview Developmental Center in Costa Mesa. That plan has since been abandoned.

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Times staff writer Soumya Karlamangla contributed to this report.


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