Dispatchers in Houston, Texas, have stopped asking 911 callers if they have coronavirus symptoms — a move that has local firefighters concerned.
According to multiple reports, 911 callers will no longer be asked if they or members of their household are showing signs of COVID-19, which had been an ongoing procedure since the novel coronavirus pandemic started. The dispatchers would then inform firefighters, according to the reports.
“Having less information about COVID-19 infections is dangerous for firefighters, paramedics and the public. Why the city is refusing to track the information is a mystery to us,” Patrick “Marty” Lancton, president of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association, told Fox News in an email.
The city announced the new policy Tuesday when members of the Houston Fire Department were attending funeral services for Houston’s first firefighter to die of the coronavirus.
“We are also troubled that the city released this information during the memorial service for Captain Leroy Lucio who died from complications of COVID-19,” Lancton added.
Houston Fire Chief Sam Pena told local media outlet ABC-13 that this new policy comes out of concern that callers are not being honest about their symptoms and that the policy also is an acknowledgment of how rampant COVID-19 has become in Houston.
Pena had publicly pleaded to Houston residents to answer dispatchers honestly in an effort to protect firefighters, according to the local outlet. His fire department has sustained large numbers of COVID-forced quarantines, Pena said.
Pena explained the change to members of the Houston Fire Department in a memo obtained by local ABC 13- TV.
“The prevalence of COVID-19 is high in the Houston area and COVID-19 cannot be ‘ruled out’ in the field nor appropriately screened via OEC. In the best interest of HFD members’ health and well-being, all addresses and patients should be considered as possible COVID-19 positive places and patients. No attempts should be made or opinions formed to consider and treat any patient as ‘non-COVID,’” the memo reads, per the outlet.
“Goal is to minimize spread of infectious disease. In EMS & all healthcare, we practice universal precautions. Exposure is a risk in our workplace on all calls. Correct PPE is required on every call. Houston’s paramedics told to assume everyone has COVID-19,” Pena added on Twitter.