4 San Jose firefighters test positive for coronavirus; nearly 80 others possibly exposed

Four San Jose firefighters have tested positive for the new coronavirus, city officials confirmed on Thursday. 

Authorities said a firefighter who first contracted COVID-19 likely exposed nearly 80 other first responders to the virus at San Jose Fire Department's Station No. 9. San Jose Fire Fighters Union, Local 230 later confirmed that test results for three of those firefighters came back positive for COVID-19.

Two others are in isolation at home with coronavirus-like symptoms and are awaiting formal test results. 

Fire officials said it was only a matter of time before one of their own was exposed. 

"Because our firefighters work in teams, and they train together and eat and sleep in the same areas, they are at risk of possible exposure," said San Jose Assistant Fire Chief Reggie Williams. 

City authorities are unsure of how the first infected firefighter came in contact with the virus and are they are retracing his steps in hopes of finding the source. 

He lives in Long Beach and commutes to San Jose for work. He is receiving medical treatment at a hospital in his hometown.

The sick firefighter also has multiple family members who have tested positive for the coronavirus, and other relatives with symptoms are awaiting test results. 

It's not yet known where the three sickened firefighters are receiving care. 

The fire station where the rest of the firefighters were potentially exposed was deep cleaned as were all of San Jose's fire facilities.

Those firefighters were placed on leave and told to self-monitor at home, however, some of them have already returned to work, city officials said. 

All first responders are trained to monitor for illness and are aware of the symptoms associated with the virus. 

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The fire department has brought in off-duty firefighters to fill any vacancies at Station No. 9 as it remains open. 

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said the coronavirus impact on the city's fire department and those responsible for keeping communities safe, is a matter of great concern. 

"It's of great concern to me both because every one of our firefighters on the frontlines is serving members of our community and because they're members of our city family," Liccardo said. 

The mayor said the federal response to mitigate the outbreak has been slow, adding that other countries are testing for COVID-19 in far greater numbers than in the U.S. 

"This is a national crisis and we certainly need national commitment," Liccardo stated.