Our Experience Being A Firefighter Family Living In Arizona During The COVID-19 Pandemic

Thanks for stopping by the blog today and reading. This has been a post I have been wanting to write for the last several weeks. The last time I wrote on this topic was back in March. My husband Josh is a firefighter and has been on the department for over 12 years. I hope this gives you some insight on what our family has been experiencing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Local fire departments are starting to report more COVID positive test results among it’s members. Phoenix Fire is reporting 62 positive COVID-19 cases among firefighters and another 100 currently quarantined during the testing process, awaiting their results.

Let me start by saying you could have 10 families within the fire department write their thoughts and experiences down and get 10 varying answers. This post is based on our own experience.

Our family has been a self contained unit since March. We have not spent time with extended family members other then quick driveway visits from the car. Same goes for any in person interaction with friends. For reference we have an 8, 6, 3, and 3 year old. Three of our kids have had birthdays during this time. We celebrated their birthday’s at home. No friends, no extended family over, just the six of us.

We have been ordering our groceries online and picking them up curbside. Not any different from how we were doing things pre-pandemic to be honest. With 4 kids I am so thankful for curbside pickup! We haven’t eaten at any restaurants since February. This feels super crazy typing out because it is the longest period of time we have ever done this in our almost 13 years of marriage. 

The 4th quarter of school was done at home. Our kids missed their teachers and friends so much but we made the best of the situation and I feel like we did it fairly well.

Church is being done in our living room. Our church has been doing a great job at providing resources for us and our kids during this time to worship at home. 

But while we have been doing everything possible to limit our footprint outside our home so many others are not. Our state has more cases currently daily then we did during our stay at home order.

When Your Child Realizes What Dad Does For Work…

We always knew our kids would one day realize that Dad’s job is dangerous. He doesn’t just get to ride in a really cool fire truck but he actually fights fires. Fire burns. In this moment we knew part of their innocence would be chipped away as they realized Dad could get hurt at work. 

When Josh was a few months graduated out of the fire academy and in his first rotation, we went to a Christmas party with the crew he was working with. We had been married a year at this point, and I was super excited to meet the other wives. I listened to them talk about this exact topic and filed it away for later. I knew when the time came I would have the best speech planned for this conversation with our own kids. 

My breath caught in my throat one night two months ago when we were putting our oldest to bed. After saying prayers Josh told him he would be going to work in the morning. 

In the moment something clicked and Caden realized that Dad would be around other people who might be sick. It was heartbreaking. I always thought we would have this conversation in regards to fire. I had a great speech prepared, thanks to listening to that conversation years ago, about how daddy trains to be careful during fires and why we are so thankful he works with a crew that truly has each other’s best interest at heart. 

And while that last part remains true about his crew, no fire department has been trained for how to operate during a pandemic. Firefighters fight fires, run medical calls, and are there for the community in any and all emergencies. Everyone is learning as they go and trying to implement the best known practices to keep crews and patients safe. 

We are beyond grateful for this job that Josh wanted for so long and that pays our bills. But for the first time in Josh’s career, his job has concerned me. There are so many unknowns. At least with a fire you have protocol to follow. You train for fire. Firefighters don’t train for a pandemic. I don’t want my husband, family, or his coworkers to get burned by this.

We let our son know Dad is taking every precaution he can at work. And honestly that is all we could say.

Limiting Exposure To COVID-19 At Work & Home

My husband comes into contact with numerous people at work and because of that interaction we are doing several things at home to limit any virus exposure to our family. 

Our house gets disinfected several times a week. Josh isn’t sharing any of his food or drink with myself or the kids, though he will still eat any remaining food on our plates ;). He immediately showers and changes his clothes when he arrives home from shift. Shoes are left in the garage and sprayed down before they are brought into the house. He is wearing a mask at work and physically distancing in the station (this is now part of the standard operating procedure). Cell phone, keys, and steering wheel are wiped off also. 

COVID-19 Testing

University of Arizona is currently doing a wide scale study of COVID-19 with first responders and Josh was able to get the antibody test through the study. He had the test in May and tested negative. The tests results came with two pages of information basically saying that he could still be a COVID-19 carrier even with the negative result.

Fast forward to the end of June and he had a known contact with a positive case at work. While he has had known contact with COVID patients at work before, this time the exposure was from another firefighter. Thankfully Josh was able to get a test and two days later the negative results came back. Again the negative results came with information saying that even though he tested negative it might not mean he is actually negative. Only that at the time of testing, if he was infected, he didn’t have enough viral load to confirm.

Not everyone is having a two day turn around time like Josh did. One of our family members was tested on the same day as Josh but it took him just shy of two weeks to get his negative result back. Two weeks! That is such a long time. 

The downside to all this is that it took Josh several days to be informed about the exposure. Time that we as a family could have also been exposed as well. And had we been out and about in the community we very easily could have given it to others. It is great that more people are able to be tested in Arizona but the results are taking so long. And due to various HIPAA laws some organizations have their hands tied in exactly how much information they can share. It is just all really frustrating.

We can only control what our family is doing to keep everyone in our household healthy. Beyond that, it is up to others in our community to help keep my husband and other essential workers safe. At this point in time it doesn’t seem like that is happening. Driving around town you would never know that our hospitals are almost at capacity due to COVID-19. 

How Many People Do We Know With COVID-19

In the last two weeks we can count 10 people that we know who have COVID. Thankfully the majority have had mild cases so far, but a few are still feeling the effects even after being deemed “recovered”. They are still suffering from breathing issues and fatigue. Currently one of those is prone on a vent and fighting for his life. 

Our youngest son has asthma and is on 4 different medications to help monitor his breathing. We don’t know what COVID would do to him. Maybe he would have a mild case, but that is a gamble we don’t want to take. We aren’t living in fear but we are living cautiously. We have read up on all the best ways to protect our home and keep Josh safe at work and are putting those things into the practice, the rest we know is in the Lord’s hands. 

This time period has been especially eye opening in regards to friendships. We hear and read the opinions of our friends and peers on this topic. People who we might have normally reached out to for support are approaching this as a hoax or think it is a complete over reaction. It is hard. It hurts at times. Not really sure there is much more to say on that. It just sucks. 

I am hopeful this will get better and I believe it will at some point. But until it does we will be staying home.

The kids and I miss going to see Josh at work, eating Deena-balls (a yummy treat with oreos and cream cheese that his crew member makes), and sitting in the truck pretending to go on a call. The fire department is one big extended family and we are so thankful our kids get to grow up with these experiences and we are looking forward to the day they can happen again. I love my husband and I am so proud of the work he, and his crew, and department are doing right now.

On The Sunny Side of Things…(And It is Really Sunny & Hot In Arizona Right Now)

On a positive note, we have spent so much time with our kids! And I really do mean that in the best way. I was spending an average of 4 hours a day in the car driving kids to and from school and it has been amazing to have more time at home. We have been potty training our littlest ones. Yay for potty training when you don’t have to drive anywhere! And all the mama’s said, AMEN! And we have been playing so many board and card games. 

Even though we haven’t spent time with family in person we have been using technology to our advantage. We have played board games with our family via zoom and been able to see each other for birthdays. 

We are eating healthier because we aren’t eating out. So yay! I have been able to workout consistently since April and we completed our garage gym, I will share details on that soon. Josh did an amazing job organizing all our equipment in one central location.

Sometimes it is hard to know what to write and how much to share especially on this topic. Thank you all so much for reading! I really appreciate you taking the time out of your day to read what our family has been experiencing.

xo, Tamara

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My Husband Is A Firefighter, Please Stop Saying COVID-19 Is “Just The Flu”

In January I began to follow what was happening in China. Then I followed what was happening in South Korea. I came across this tweet from a local reporter…

She later went on in the thread to state that around 40 doctors had signed up to help in the hours after the email was to 5700 of Mr. Lee’s colleagues.

And now I am reading about Italy. And I am so concerned for the United States.

If you have not read about this parade and how we can flatten the curve of pandemics by cancelling public gatherings here is an excellent article from The Smithsonian. Philadelphia Threw a WWI Parade That Gave Thousands of Onlookers the Flu.

As of the time of this writing on March 14th the United States has 2,499 cases, 51 deaths, and 49 recovered. Many experts are saying we are days behind Italy. Italy has 17,660 cases, 1,266 deaths, and 1,433 recovered.

UPDATE: As of March 15th the United States has 3,083 cases, 60 deaths, and 56 recovered. Italy has 21,157 cases, 1,441 deaths, and 1,966 recovered.

My husband is a firefighter. We are not wanting to spread panic or to live in fear but we are making decisions with the information we have seen from experts. We are staying home. He is going to work. We are praying for his safety and for everyone who is on the frontline for this pandemic.

Please I am begging you to stop spreading misinformation about the coronavirus. This isn’t the flu and it is not a hoax.

HERE IS WHAT IS HAPPENING ACROSS THE UNITED STATES

Here are just a few stories of those who are at the frontline. These men and women are being exposed to this virus they can’t see or readily detect. Across the United States healthcare workers are literally weeks, some even days away, from running out of supplies and unable to order more. 

The City of Kirkland, Washington currently has 1/3 of the Fire Department under quarantine because of known virus exposure. First responders were tested to see if they were positive but because it took so long to test the samples they expired. 

EvergreenHealth a hospital at the heart of the outbreak in Washington last night reported that they only have a 4 day supply of gloves left. UPDATE: EvergreenHealth doctor tests positive for coronavirus, in critical condition.

You can read more about what is happening in Washington below..

In Maricopa County Arizona where I reside, the county no longer will quarantine healthcare workers and 1st responders for 14 days if they are exposed to the virus and are asymptomatic. Instead they will check your temperature and monitor symptoms of workers before each shift.

Transmission of the virus can happen from a person who is asymptomatic. When those with known exposure return to work without being tested they may potentially be exposing others to this virus also.

My husbands department is not able to supply crews with surgical masks to place on a patients who are exhibiting signs of a respiratory illness. The Recommendations for EMS Clinicians and Medical First Responders provided by the CDC states that patient contact should be minimized until a facemask is on the patient. What happens when you don’t have surgical mask available to put on a patient?

More concerning is that due to the limited supply of N-95s crews are being asked to reuse their masks.

When a captain on my husband’s department asked about ordering surgical masks for patients he was told “Have you checked Home Depot?”

I am not trying to point blame because there is enough of that going on right now. But what is being reported by our federal and state governments isn’t even close to what is happening to those on the frontline of this pandemic.

San Jose Fire Department in California is, slowly through testing, showing they may have a cluster that has developed undetected. They currently have 8 members who have tested positive with 1 in the hospital. There are 43 under quarantine. Update: The sick firefighters also have multiple family members who have tested COVID-19 positive, the union added, while other family members with symptoms of the virus were waiting for their test results.

In Georgia a fire station in the City of South Fulton is temporarily closed because three firefighters were exposed to a patient who tested positive for the coronavirus.

FDNY has two members who have tested positive, and 33 additional Firefighters are self-quarantined and the firehouse is being decontaminated. Currently, 99 total FDNY members are self-quarantined.

In New Jersey “We had a patient that we were thinking about releasing — he seemingly was recovering — and then, two days later, he was put in the ICU. The flu isn’t like that. People need to know this”

Spokane, Washington is reporting that more than 30 members of the Spokane Fire Department are in self-quarantine. Eight of the firefighters are showing symptoms and one of those eight is hospitalized.

CONVERSATIONS WE ARE HAVING & WHAT OUR FAMILY IS DOING

“So what happens if you get exposed to this at work?” I ask.

My husband answers, “I won’t come home. I would stay at the station. I couldn’t bring that home to our family.”

This then brings up another question, “But then you are increasing the risk to others on the department.”

There are really no answers. We have none. He has yet to receive any form of communication on what would happen in the event of an exposure from his department.

Our school district has made the decision as of yesterday to remain open. We know that can change. If it doesn’t and it remains open we will not be sending our son to school. Children can be asymptomatic carriers of this virus. With Josh’s job we know our family is at a higher risk of exposure and we do not want to unknowingly spread the virus in our community. UPDATE: On March 15th, 2020 Governor Ducey announced the closure of Arizona schools from 3/16/20-3/27/20.

Several weeks ago we made the decision to stop attending services at our church. This was not made out of fear but in an abundance of caution. There are many who attend our congregation who are considered at higher risk and so we decided to distance ourselves.

We have also greatly increased our time spent at home. Our kids are going slightly stir crazy but that is ok. Yesterday we had to go to our accountant and sign for our taxes and the kids got so excited to drive up to the top of the parking garage.

Our visits to see grandparents and great grandparents are non existent at the moment. My mom calls her parents daily to check in and make sure they are ok. We are staying away and while this is hard we know it is necessary for this time.

Text messaging has taking on a sobering tone with the information that is being shared in our circle. We are staying connected and reaching out to family and friends to see if they have any needs and they are doing the same for us. Most importantly it is just nice knowing that we are not alone in this.

Needless to say this has made us more thankful for the simple everyday blessings like being together as a family and driving the car to top of the parking garage.

If you are unsure how to talk with your kids our daughters preschool supplied this link on Talking to Children About COVID-19 (Coronavirus): A Parent Resource. A great resource if you aren’t sure where to get started.

BE INFORMED

We all have our part to play in this to help flatten the curve and give our healthcare workers, doctors, hospitals and 1st responders a fighting chance.

We don’t want to overwhelm our healthcare system.

There is so much misinformation floating around and that can cause panic. Be informed and go to trusted sources of information. My friend Dani over at KidNurse is offering free live webinars next week to teach parents what they need to know about Coronavirus Disease, how to take care of children, and how to avoid misinformation online. Please sign up here: https://kidnurse.org/masterclass!

MedCram has awesome updates on youtube with realtime information from a doctor. Please subscribed and follow. The latest video: Coronavirus Pandemic Update 36: Flatten The COVID-19 Curve, Social Distancing, Hospital Capacities

The International Association of Firefighters is updating their website twice a day to share the latest information to protect those on the frontline. They are asking that all 1st responders visit this website in the morning and evening for updates. https://iaff.org/coronavirus/

We are all in this together. Let’s all do our part to help flatten the curve and slow down the spread of this virus in all our communities. Stay safe!

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