UPDATE (March 18, 2020)– After a COVID-19 test came back negative, the firefighters were cleared to return to work. Read more here.
JOHNSON COUNTY, Ind.– Ten firefighters from the White River Township Fire Department (WRTFD) have self-quarantined after a medical run Saturday that resulted in the death of a 60-year-old Johnson County man.
WRTFD Chief Jeremy Pell said the patient died at home after showing signs of respiratory distress and symptoms that could be similar to those common with COVID-19.
Pell said there has been no confirmation that the patient had the coronavirus and his firefighters are awaiting definitive test results from the Johnson County Health Department and a follow up health survey with the man’s family.
The Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) updated its COVID-19 count statewide Sunday to indicate there have been 19 confirmed cases of the virus and no deaths.
Pell said that while deaths from respiratory distress or the flu can be common, out of an abundance of caution, his firefighters are in the process of self-isolating at home or quarantining at the department’s former headquarters at State Road 37 and West Smith Valley Road, which has been vacant and used as a storage site since WRTFD moved into new facilities last fall.
Two firefighters remain at home while the other eight personnel who were on the Saturday afternoon medical run are making arrangements to be housed at the former headquarters.
Pell said the patient had an underlying history of respiratory issues, had vomited and had recently returned from Mexico on Jan. 18.
Mexico was not known as an outbreak location in mid-January.
Johnson County Sheriff Duane Burgess said that his deputies are not necessarily responding to medical assistance runs unless the call for help is the result of an acute emergency such as cardiac arrest.
Burgess said he has also instructed his deputy to use discretion in determining if some violators can merely be served with a summons as opposed to an arrest which would include processing at the Johnson County Jail where the sheriff’s office is cooperating with Johnson Superior Courts to enact an expedited bail system to release low level offenders who do not present an immediate danger to the public.