Five Hawaii Fire Department personnel sidelined after battalion chief tests positive for COVID-19

Five Hawaii Fire Department personnel are sidelined after a West Hawaii battalion chief tested positive for COVID-19.

The battalion chief was headquartered at the Waikoloa Fire Station and asymptomatic at the time of testing. The test was administered Saturday in compliance with pre-/post-travel requirements to Oahu, according to a Wednesday statement from the department.

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On Monday, the battalion chief received the positive test result and notified command. The department subsequently disinfected the entire Waikoloa Fire Station.

A total of five personnel are currently self-quarantined as a precaution. All are asymptomatic, including the battalion chief who is being monitored by the state Department of Health.

Fire Chief Darren Rosario assured the community that emergency responses will not be affected. The department boasts approximately 370 personnel serving out of 21 stations.

“All fire personnel considered possible contacts will follow department protocols and will receive two COVID-19 tests over the course of this week and next week,” Rosario said. “They must receive negative tests in order to return to work, following department protocols.”

The department offered separate living quarters at designated rentals for quarantined personnel, but the staff chose to self-quarantine at home. The department’s Emergency Medical Services Bureau provided care packages including masks, disinfecting products and hand sanitizers for the affected firefighters’ homes.

“I am sincerely grateful for the responsible actions of our entire Big Island community towards keeping COVID-19 off of our island,” Rosario said.

The positive test isn’t the first in the state among fire personnel.

On Tuesday, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported a second Honolulu Fire Department firefighter stationed in Moanalua tested positive for the virus. The firefighter is on leave and approximately 10 other personnel from the station are in self-quarantine.

It’s estimated that about 50-55 Honolulu firefighters are currently in quarantine because of COVID-19.

“We have over 1,100 firefighters that we can plug into the gaps at any given moment,” said Honolulu department spokesman Capt. Jeffrey Roache. “There’s ample resources to draw from in regards to manpower.”

The news of a positive test among Hawaii County first responders comes after the Judiciary announced Tuesday that one of its staffers at South Kohala District Court tested positive for COVID-19.

The facility, located in the Waimea Civic Center complex, will remain shuttered this week. The employee was asymptomatic, but took a coronavirus test Saturday as a precautionary measure unrelated to their work at the courthouse, the Judiciary said.

After the positive result came back, all employees at the facility were directed to go home and self-quarantine and advised to monitor their health and seek advice of a medical provider, including the possibility of their own test for COVID-19.

The Judiciary was unable to provide an update on the situation as of press time Wednesday. The courthouse is set to reopen Monday per Hawaii Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald’s order.

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Also Wednesday, Recktenwald issued an order postponing the resumption of jury trials until Oct. 5, “barring further public health or other extraordinary developments that would make doing so imprudent.”

All previous orders remain in effect as do emergency orders issued by Circuit Court chief judges. Grand jury proceedings resumed July 1.

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