Local first responders have plans in place should staffing be affected by COVID-19

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — As more and more first responders are coming in contact with, and are contracting COVID-19, many local departments said they have plans in place to ensure that they remain ready and able to respond to calls.

This week, the Albany Police Department reported its first confirmed case of COVID-19, but Chief Eric Hawkins said this did not result in any other quarantines within the department.

“This was an officer that was assigned to a unit that had no contact with the public and very little contact with any other employees,” said Chief Hawkins.

The Chief said while they currently do not have a staffing issue due to COVID-19, they are prepared if that should happen.

“We already have some plans in place to start to redirect some of our staffing from detective duties and some other duties that are not on the road so that they can be shifted to road operations,” said Chief Hawkins.

Chief Hawkins said the partnership between agencies in the Capital Region has been tremendous and they have been in constant contact.

“Usually once a week we have a conference call to discuss all of these things. We talk about the challenges we’re all having and sharing ideas and resources if necessary. We all understand that we have to work together in order to get through this,” said Chief Hawkins.

Albany Fire Chief, Joseph Gregory, told NEWS10 ABC that out of 260 firefighters, they’ve had a total of six cases of COVID-19 to date.  On Thursday, 15 were under quarantine, but nine of them will be cleared as of midnight. The rest should be back by mid-next week.

Last month, the Chief said they had an entire platoon made up of 11 firefighters who were under quarantine at one time. The Chief said they were able to bring in a company to sanitize the building and the apparatus and then they brought in members from their other platoons to maintain staffing.

“It was a bit of a struggle, but our members stepped up to the plate and were able to cover each others positions. There were no safety issues for the public or for our members at that time,” said Chief Gregory.

The Chief said they also have the option of reaching out to their mutual aid companies such as Troy, Watervliet, or Green Island if they needed the extra manpower.

“We know that we could reach out and have them support us,” said Chief Gregory.

Both of the Chiefs said the Albany County Health Department, the Albany County Sheriff’s Office, and the Albany County Emergency Management Services have been a huge help when it comes to answering questions and providing the necessary supplies to keep their crews safe.

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