ALTOONA, BLAIR COUNTY, PA (WTAJ) — A number of Altoona police officers and firefighters are now in quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19. A number of other officers are waiting on test results.
Emergency Management Coordinator & Fire Chief, Tim Hileman says Altoona police and fire are prepared. But he asks the public to follow CDC guidelines. Hileman says “this is not something to ignore, it’s not going to go away and if our numbers continue to increase, we may run out of resources…Avoid those congregated settings where you know the exposures can happen because what’s happening is that that is exposing our first responders.”
We’re told 10 Altoona police officers have tested positive or are in isolation with an additional 3 tests pending. There are also 3 pending tests within the Altoona Fire Department. Decker is asking residents to help out by following CDC guidelines. He says “just because we have this pandemic going on, doesn’t mean that we don’t have things like fires or police calls for service so the more our residents can do to protect themselves the more that helps us do our job.”
The Logan Township Police Department reports one positive case and one pending test. Department Chief, David Reese says “in a smaller department like ours, if you get 3 or 4 officers that need to be tested that often, it creates a staffing shortage…We’re just adjusting and being as flexible as we can.”
Both Logan Township and APD say if cases within the department spike, they’ll move staff around and may have to work together more often. They say they’re doing whatever is possible to make sure response times are quick and everyone is safe.
Altoona City Manager, Ken Decker says most cases are coming from fire employees. He says “just because we have this pandemic going on doesn’t mean we don’t have things like fires or police calls for service. The more our residents can do to protect themselves, the more it helps us do our job.” He tells us that first responders are constantly going into situations where there is possible exposure.
The first responder’s in the Altoona and Logan Township area are tested on a weekly basis. Those who have been exposed are put on quarantine, lasting at least 10 days.