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More Boardman firefighters in quarantine

BOARDMAN — A week after three firefighters with the Boardman Fire Department tested positive for COVID-19, the number continues to climb.

“We’ve got a problem,” said fire Chief Mark Pitzer as he explained there are now seven positive cases out of 37 firefighters in three stations.

Pitzer updated Boardman Township trustees on the matter during their meeting Monday.

Although there are no hospitalizations of those tested positive, Pitzer said he is monitoring two to ensure they don’t need to go to the hospital.

Last week, nine firefighters, including Pitzer, began practicing quarantine-style behavior, but were still showing up at the stations while being regularly tested.

The two most recent positive cases tested negative late last week, Pitzer said. They worked Friday and Saturday, starting to feel sick over the weekend.

People are contagious 24 to 48 hours prior to experiencing symptoms, he said.

The testing regimen isn’t fully effective, PItzer said.

“All we’re doing is a vicious cycle of testing firefighters” that feel OK, report to work and find out shortly after they — in fact — have COVID-19, Pitzer said.

As a result of the outbreak, the department is down 19 people. Pitzer also noted that one firefighter is on sick leave, while two other firefighter positions need filled.

Going forward, a more aggressive approach is being enacted, Pitzer said.

He spent Monday contacting the original eight other members, telling them to stay home to “truly quarantine.”

“We want to make sure we are providing service to the community,” Pitzer said, which cannot be done if everyone in the department is sick.

Pitzer said the near future is going to be challenging.

“It’s going to be problematic for the next two weeks,” he said, referring to staffing concerns.

The department is striving to have eight firefighters between the three stations. Should the department drop to seven, all three fire stations can still have personnel, Pitzer said.

If the department gets to the point where only six firefighters would be on at one time, then Station 73 on Shields Road would temporarily close. The Canfield fire station on nearby Messerly Road is about one mile from the Boardman boundary, so it would be able to help respond to calls, Pitzer said.

More temporary consolidation of staff would occur if only five personnel are able to work, utilizing the main fire station on Market Street, Pitzer said.

A strict facemask mandate has been enforced since last week, Pitzer said, and disinfection efforts are conducted throughout each day.

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