The department had 12 of its roughly 600 members in quarantine as of July 9, including both positive and presumptive positive cases, Fire Chief Amy Ramon said. None of the 12 cases are related to the transport of patients while on duty, but were instead tied to community exposure, Ramon said.
"Our trucks are still fully staffed," she said. "We’re not having problems filling any shifts at all. It’s been quite amazing. Everybody in our department—doesn’t matter if you’re paid or volunteer—have really stepped up during COVID[-19]."
Call volumes dropped substantially during the shutdown that ran from late March through April, but Ramon said calls have since increased to slightly above normal levels.
"I’d say probably 30% of [people] we transport have some sort of COVID[-19]-type symptom," Ramon said. "That’s not saying they are all COVID[-19] patients. It's just to the point where we are taking extra precautions."
The department has had protocols in place since March designed to mitigate the spread of the virus among members, Ramon said, including requiring everyone in the office and at the fire stations to wear masks, and wearing tight suits and face shields for calls where a presumed COVID-19 patient is involved. The department also hired "decontamination" personnel, newly created positions for people who oversee the decontamination of ambulances and first responders after any call where a presumed COVID-19 patient was transported.
If a fire fighters is showing symptoms of COVID-19, they are immediately sent to get tested, Ramon said. When a fire fighter reports that a spouse or someone in their household has tested positive, they are presumed positive and told to quarantine, which can be done at home or at one of two facilities that have been outfitted specifically for people who are presumed positive or waiting on test results.
Prior to the pandemic, the Cy-Fair Fire Department started the process of merging with Harris County Emergency Services District No. 9 as a part of a larger effort to start bringing on more paid fire fighters to help with increasing needs in the Cy-Fair area. The first round of 14 full-time fire fighters officially started on the job in February, but plans to bring on another class this summer have been delayed to late 2020 or early 2021, Ramon said.
In the meantime, Ramon said the mix of volunteers, part-time staff and full-time staff have been meeting demands. She expressed gratitude for the support the department has gotten from the community.
"The Cypress community has always surrounded our department with support and love, and we definitely feel that in this time," she said.