At least 9 San Joaquin County firefighters in isolation after COVID-19 exposure

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SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY, Calif. (KTXL) — At least nine firefighters in San Joaquin County were in isolation after officials say they were exposed to COVID-19 patients.

Six firefighters in Stockton were under quarantine while three in Manteca are also isolated.

By Monday night, Stockton Firefighters Local 456 said those firefighters tested over the weekend received negative results.

What was Manteca’s City Hall has become its emergency operations center.

“This is very real. It’ll impact your lives,” said Lantz Rey, the fire marshal and administrative chief for the Manteca Fire Department. “We’re looking at our families, our fire families, and making sure that they’re OK and we want you to do the same.”

Rey said they are working to get the three Manteca firefighters tested for COVID-19. They will remain under home isolation for 14 days. 

“This has hit home for us,” Rey said.

San Joaquin County has had a guideline in place that requires firefighters and EMTs wear masks, gowns and goggles, otherwise known as personal protective equipment, when treating patients with respiratory issues. 

“The exposure that led to the firefighters being quarantined was prior to the county mandate to wear that type of PPE,” Rey explained.

Rey said that has changed since some of the patients did not have breathing problems when they were treated.

“We’ve since stepped that up for all medical calls,” he told FOX40.

The quarantine is a challenge to the city’s staffing levels but Rey said they are prepared.

“We were at full staff,” he said. “We are backfilling with overtime firefighters to keep staffing in the city of Manteca fully staffed.”

He said the city is doing its best to protect families with a full staff of firefighters and police officers.

While most city offices are closed, some staff is still working with vulnerable groups.

“We needed to get out to our senior community and see if their needs are being met,” said Manteca Fire Department Battalion Chief Dave Marques.

Some city employees are now working from home but others have hit the streets and are working with senior citizens, sharing with them the resources that are available.

“The seniors, or anybody else in our community that needs help, we’re doing everything we can to make that happen,” Marques told FOX40.

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