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CFO Patronis: As Health Care Services Become Strained, First Responders Must be Prepared

Patronis on Call


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, Florida Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis held a call with the Executive Board of the Florida Fire Chiefs Association to discuss mitigation and containment strategies for COVID-19. During the call, the CFO stressed the importance of being prepared for major policy directives that may require increased manpower, such as the deployment of drive-thru testing on a statewide level, as public services become further strained.

CFO and State Fire Marshal Patronis said, “As I have said for weeks, first responders needed to treat COVID-19 like a hurricane by preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. With more than 200 confirmed cases in Florida and the number of domestic travel cases increasing – like a Hurricane – the coronavirus has made landfall in Florida. Much of the attention has been on doctors, nurses, emergency medical services and other functions that operate in the health care space. However, as we move away from preparedness activities and into the containment and mitigation of COVID-19, much more will be required of Florida’s first responders.

“First, as health care services throughout Florida become further strained, Florida firefighters may be used to supplement health care and logistical operations. No doubt, the need for more beds, more supplies, and more personnel with medical experience will be needed as cases of COVID-19 continue to grow.

“Second, although drive-thru testing has not been fully deployed on a statewide level, should this policy be executed, firefighters and other first responders will be needed. Whether helping with traffic, triaging individuals with fevers vs. individuals who are not symptomatic, or supporting any other of the many missions that are needed for a massive undertaking, Florida first responders must be prepared for any containment and mitigation strategies that may require their expertise. Our first responders’ ability to contain and mitigate coronavirus in Florida will require especially strong communication with hospitals and county health units. And unfortunately, fires and the other types of emergencies our heroes respond to won’t go away while we’re dealing with this global pandemic.

“On today’s call, there was also a discussion regarding the availability of equipment and prioritizing first responders for COVID-19 testing. That’s why after talking to fire chiefs, I spoke to Division of Emergency Management (DEM) Director Jared Moskowitz who assured me first responders will be prioritized for testing and protective equipment. I want to thank Director Moskowitz for being proactive in protecting our men and women on the front lines. Many of these heroes are responding to infectious disease calls, so from a public health stand point, it's vital that Florida’s first responders have what they need to protect themselves and their team members. If first responders go unprotected or don’t know they have COVID-19, entire fire houses could go-offline which puts our communities in a vulnerable state.”

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