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Baytown firefighter/paramedic Johnathon Moore checks his temperature before starting his shift.

Baytown police and firefighters have ramped up their COVID-19 precautions as more residents of Harris and Chambers counties have been diagnosed, but are still providing full services with no Baytown first-responders showing signs of contracting the illness.

Two firefighters who happened to be traveling in Europe at the time of the outbreak are still in self-isolation, according to Daniel Calhoun, secretary and communications director for the Baytown Professional Firefighters Association.

Another six firefighters were in self-isolation for a week after being involved in the care of a patient suspected of being infected, but returned to duty after the patient tested negative for the virus, Calhoun said.

Firefighters have also been told to notify their supervisors if they traveled in the past 14 days or have been in contact with someone from one of the virus hot spots.

The police department has told its officers to stay home if they show any symptoms, department spokesman Lt. Steve Dorris said, but has not had any reported.

Start-of-shift roll calls have been moved from the small conference room where they are usually held to a larger room or, when possible, outdoors, he said.

Both departments report having an adequate supply of personal protective equipment on hand.

“We are providing our officers with protective masks and gloves,” Dorris said. “We are working against the same constraints as everyone else when it comes to quantities and availability. Chief Dougherty is working closely with our county, state and federal partners to make sure our officers have the protective gear they need to keep them as safe as possible.”

Another adjustment the police department has made is taking more reports over the phone or directing people to online reporting.

“Reports that can be filed online include cases such as most property crimes, identity theft, harassment and criminal mischief where there are no known suspects,” Dorris said. “Our communications personnel are also screening callers over the phone to determine if our officers and/or other first responders will be at a heightened risk of exposure when responding to the call.”

He said that in some cases police are asking complainants to step out of their homes to speak with officers so that good social distancing can be maintained.

For firefighters, another part of the new procedure is checking their temperature twice each shift—once at the start of the shift and once halfway through.

City spokeswoman Alicia Jauregui said any firefighter with a temperature of 99.5 or above is sent home.

She said the department has a good supply of protective equipment in stock and more on order.

Both the fire department and the police department have experienced a lower call volume than usual in the past week, but neither reports significant change in the nature of the calls.

Dorris said, “One of the calls that we would expect to see drop while the [stay-at-home] order is in effect is residential burglaries. With most people complying with the orders and staying home they create somewhat of a deterrent for certain segments of the criminal population.”

“Once this is over we will be able to make a more educated statistical comparison of calls our officers have handled, both in numbers and in typed,” he added.

Calhoun said the call volume suggests that social distancing is working and should continue.

“We would still like to encourage all citizens to go to their personal physician for all non-life-threatening conditions, or even use ‘tela-doc’ when possible to limit exposure. 

“If you are unable to drive yourself or you feel that you have a life-threatening condition, please do not hesitate to call 911. As we have for 72 years, we will continue to respond every day to each and every emergency that impacts our community’s health and safety,” he said.

 

8th Harris Co. SO employee tests positive for virus

Two Harris County Sheriff’s Office deputies received a positive COVID-19 test results in the past 24 hours, bringing the agency’s total number of confirmed cases among staff to eight. 

One of the two most recent cases is a sergeant is in his early 70s, who works in patrol. His last day on duty was March 18. He is now quarantined at home. The second recent case is a male deputy in his mid-50s and is a part-time employee assigned to the property room. His last day on duty was March 12. He is now quarantined at home. Previously reported cases include: - A male deputy in his late 20s, who is now quarantined at home - A female deputy in her late 20s, who is now quarantined at home - A male deputy in his early 30s, who is now quarantined at home. - A male civilian clerk employee in his late 20s, who is being treated at a local hospital. - A male deputy in his late 60s, who is quarantined at home. - A female deputy in her late 20s, who is quarantined at home. 

The sheriff’s office is working with Harris County Public Health to identify co-workers, inmates and members of the public who may have had close contact with the diagnosed employees so they can take precautions, including a 14-day quarantine and testing for those with symptoms. 

At this time, there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 among the jail’s inmate population.

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