While firefighters and paramedics are about to start taking extra precautions, questions still remain about what will happen when a Winnipeg first responder helps someone who is sick with the new strain of coronavirus, says their union leader.
“It seems that this can be transmitted easier than some of the other viruses that we’ve had dealt with in the last few decades,” United Firefighters of Winnipeg president Alex Forrest told 680CJOB.
“What happens to those firefighters?” he asked.
“Once you have contact with an individual, does that mean that there’s going to be mass isolation of ambulance and fire personnel? And how do you deal with that?“
Thursday, a woman on a flight from Vancouver was removed from a plane that landed in Winnipeg. The woman, who had recently been in China, fell ill during the flight.
Emergency personnel went onto the plane in protective gear and masks. The passengers were allowed to disembark about 90 minutes after they landed.
One of those passengers was Winnipeg Blue Bomber star linebacker Adam Bighill.
“We were kind of at the gate, but just at the tarmac and they weren’t saying anything about why we weren’t getting off the plane or why it was taking so long,” said Bighill.
Passengers react to possible case of COVID-19 on plane at Winnipeg airport
“So you kind of start putting two and two together to figure out, well, someone’s not feeling well. People are wearing masks.”
After the woman was removed, passengers stayed on the plane for about another 50 minutes, said Bighill.
“It was … a little bit nerve-wracking because you realized that you very well could be in quarantine for another couple weeks.”
Eventually passengers were told they could disembark.
Not coronavirus: Premier
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister claimed Friday at a press conference the woman’s illness was not a result of COVID-19, but did not give any other details.
Manitoba Health said Friday morning that they couldn’t confirm anything about the woman’s immediate health due to privacy reasons. However, they said “no laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases have been identified in the province.”
A spokesperson said if the test for the woman comes back positive, the province will update the information in a timely manner. If the test is negative, they will not directly release that information but will continue to update statistics every Thursday, they said.
While the risk in Manitoba remains low, on Friday the World Health Organization raised its risk assessment on COVID-19 to spread worldwide as “very high.”
In the meantime, enhanced protocols will now be in place to protect first responders as best as possible, said Forrest.
“What happens now is that from now on, every single call that comes into our dispatch centre is going to be assessed whether there is a risk of coronavirus,” said Forrest.
Dispatchers will ask people questions to see if they have symptoms related to the virus, he said, and if so, first responders will arrive with full precautions.
“They will have the eye protection. They will have the N-95 mask, and if need be, they will have the gowns if there’s fluids.”
Firefighters and paramedics will then ask the patient a secondary round of questioning and if there is concern, the ambulance will transport the patient to the hospital with a mask on.
“When we take them to the hospital, the hospital will be prepared. So what happens is that they will set up the isolation in the hospital, et cetera,” said Forrest.
Ill passenger removed from plane at Winnipeg airport with possible case of COVID-19
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