COVID-19 cases spike among Fresno's first responders

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- For first responders, going into dangerous situations is part of the job. But for the past eight months, an invisible danger has also posed a credible threat.

The coronavirus.

At the Fresno County Sheriff's Office, the reality of the pandemic was felt when homicide detective Jose Mora died of COVID-19. Another deputy, Patrick Gee, barely survived his bout with the virus and remains on oxygen at home recovering.

Sheriff Margaret Mims says currently 15 correctional officers are COVID-positive, along with eight deputies and one civilian employee. An additional 15 employees are under quarantine due to a COVID exposure.

"Right now we are going through another spike where we have a group of employees who were exposed and tested positive," says Mims.

At the Fresno Police Department, the numbers are similar. Both agencies saw two waves, which is similar to trends shown by the general public.

"As we got into the summer we started to see a pretty significant rise and it rose to the point where were at right now, which is 0.5% of all our sworn officers," says Fresno Police Sgt. Jeff LaBlue.

It means approximately 42 Fresno Police officers are infected with COVID or quarantined from an exposure.

At the Fresno Fire Department, where firefighters share common quarters at fire stations, the exposure to the public and each other is high, but the number of COVID cases is surprisingly low.

"Our job is very unique, we live together. For 48 hours it's essentially like being in a home and we have completely changed the way that we do business right now. To our own, it's uncomfortable in the fire stations wearing masks, constantly sanitizing the fire house," says Shane Brown with the department.

Right now, seven firefighters in total are off work. Two have COVID and five others are in isolation.

It's a similar situation at CAL FIRE/ Fresno County Fire. Two firefighters are off with COVID. None are under quarantine.

The Fresno County Sheriff's Office also polices the jail, which has accounted for a large number of its employee cases.
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