First responders in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, have a new tool to help them stay safe as they respond to emergency calls amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The city's first responders are now receiving a daily list of the addresses of people who have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
"It's a dangerous situation and yes they are putting their lives on the line every time they come in to contact with someone," Portsmouth Fire Chief Todd Germain explained Thursday.
The information, which is coming from the New Hampshire E-911 dispatcher, will allow first responders to arrive at homes with the proper protection.
"It's a caution that we get. We get the address that someone has tested positive. It allows us to better prepare ourselves," Portsmouth Police Chief Robert Merner said.
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While they treat every call as a COVID-19 case, authorities just don't have enough protective gear to use every time. The new alert gives them extra protection, especially for emergency medical technicians who cannot practice social distancing.
"It's another tool in the toolbox. We need to control the spread of this and we need to use every tool available that we can," Germain said. "We are the top of the spear of this whole thing. We are the ones that have to come into contact with these patients."
So far, only one Portsmouth police officer has tested positive for coronavirus.
"He is doing extremely well. He had been out for a few days before he started to feel ill. We put him on a 14-day quarantine," Merner said.
Both departments said they are consolidating shifts to minimize the number of people coming and going.
As of Thursday, 21 people in New Hampshire have died from COVID-19, according to the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services. There were 819 confirmed coronavirus cases, an increase of 31 on Wednesday.