Quarantined California Firefighters to Return Home After Patient Tests Negative For Coronavirus

March 3, 2020 Updated: March 3, 2020
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A group of California firefighters with the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) are going home from quarantine after the symptomatic person they were in contact with tested negative for the novel coronavirus.

The four Irvine firefighters from Fire Station No. 20, at 7050 Corsair, were “isolated out of an abundance of caution” on March 2.

The OCFA firefighters had transported a suspected patient on Saturday night to a local hospital without wearing all protective equipment, reported CBS Los Angeles. The individual had recently traveled internationally and displayed some symptoms similar to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

The group then decided to self-quarantine inside the fire station where they underwent tests for coronavirus. They had no contact with other people, the OCFA said.

“Some of them have young children at home and felt more comfortable just isolating here at the station,” OCFA Spokesperson Colleen Windsor said. “I can tell you that they did not come into contact with anybody else. When they got back to the station, they immediately self-isolated.”

The remaining 20 Engine Company firefighters were relocated to a separate station, including the battalion chief, according to the OCFA.

The four firefighters were in good health and were not showing any symptoms of coronavirus when they self-quarantined.

It comes just days after Orange County, California, declared a local health emergency. 

Orange County Health Officer Nichole Quick said at a press conference last week that the global outbreak of the coronavirus “is a rapidly evolving situation.” 

The declaration lets the county be “nimble and flexible” in responding to the potential community spread of the new virus, Quick said. One example of the powers it bestows: county officials can ask for mutual aid from surrounding counties and/or state or federal partners if they run out of resources.

The declaration gives Quick “all the tools necessary” to deal with the threat of an outbreak, including enabling her to “take any action necessary to control any potential epidemic,” added Orange County Vice Chairman Andrew Do.

The new virus, which causes COVID-19, emerged in China in December 2019, according to official Chinese-state reports. It has symptoms similar to the flu, including coughing, a fever, and a headache. There is no vaccine or proven treatment.

A sixth coronavirus death was confirmed in the United States on Monday, health officials said. All deaths in the country so far have been in the Seattle area, as authorities across the United States scrambled to prepare for more infections with the emphasis on increasing testing capacity.

At least four of the six people who died were either elderly, or had underlying health conditions or both, said Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for the Seattle and King County Public Health agency. 

As of Sunday, the number of confirmed and presumptive cases in the United States had risen to 91, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said. 

Public health officials have said increased testing will likely result in a surge of confirmed coronavirus cases across the United States, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a policy change which would allow specific laboratories to develop and use their own validated COVID-19 screening tests before receiving authorization from the agency.  

Zachary Stieber and Reuters contributed to this report.