20 Silverton firefighters exposed to COVID-19 during training

By AP staff (AP)
SALEM, Ore. Dec. 2, 2020 9:32 p.m.

They were exposed to the coronavirus while attending a training session in late November

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — At least 20 Silverton firefighters were exposed to COVID-19 while attending a training session in late November.

Two days after participating in the agency’s firefighter academy training Nov. 21, the person told the agency they were experiencing symptoms, according to officials from the Silverton Fire District. The training event was for new volunteer firefighters.

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On Nov. 30, the individual was notified they tested positive for the virus.

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Silverton Fire District assistant chief Ed Brambusch said the training took place at a tower at the district headquarters in Silverton where the volunteers were training for search and rescue inside a burning building.

Twenty members of the fire district who attended the all-day class “may have had high-risk exposure” while training. They were notified Nov. 30 of the possible exposure and instructed to get tested or isolate until Dec. 5.

Grambusch said firefighters are instructed to remain 6 feet apart while inside the station under its COVID-19 protocols. He said the department is paying for the costs associated with COVID-19 testing, though not all have chosen to get tested.

Grambusch said the department has six paid staff members and about 75 volunteers and has plenty of staff to continue to operate and respond to calls.

So far, none of the individuals exposed during the training are showing virus symptoms, officials said Tuesday.

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Officials in Silverton, east of Salem, are trying to monitor a potential outbreak among firefighters. The situation has underscored a weakness in Oregon's response to the pandemic: a lack of a system for getting first responders tested rapidly, said Assistant Chief Ed Grambusch of the Silverton Fire District.