PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — First responders are frustrated during the coronavirus pandemic because they say they are not getting the information they need.
They are on the frontline of the battle, but firefighters and paramedics fear they’re being kept in the dark, saying the state health department is violating federal law by not telling them if they’ve treated or transported someone with coronavirus.
“If this federal law is not complied with, it could have catastrophic consequences. These first responders could unknowingly pass this disease to family members and unknowingly be carriers home to home,” said Josh Bloom, Pittsburgh Firefighter Union attorney.
Under federal law, first responders must be told if they’ve come in contact with someone who later tests positive for an infectious disease.
But the Pennsylvania State Health Department says recent state law prevents them from disclosing the names and addresses of those patients.
The department still says it is trying to keep first responders informed.
“The Disease Control and Prevention Act limits information being released to only what is necessary to protect the health and wellbeing of Pennsylvanians. If a first responder was exposed to an individual who tested positive for COVID-19, we are working through our protocols to ensure that person is notified,” the department said it a statement.
Meanwhile, health officials are telling those first responders to treat all patients as if they are carrying the virus and use the second level of personal protective equipment to ensure their health and safety.
“We’re two and a half weeks into this situation and still no answers,” Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich said.
Hissrich and emergency management coordinators throughout our region say that advice falls short and they’re not getting the formation they need.
“Right now, the information still has not been shared with us and I share the concern of our public safety community and of our first responders,” Hissrich said.
“I’m very frustrated,” Hissrich added.