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The new panel tracks COVID-19 in NC and EMT firefighters

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TRIANGLE RESEARCH PARK, NC (WTVD) – In the world of public safety, they are known as LODD – death from duty line.

And now the biggest cause of those deaths in public safety jobs is not rushing into burning buildings or shooting, it is from COVID-19.

This is why researchers in the Triangle have developed a way to track coronavirus infections in the public safety group that is most likely to get them – firefighters and emergency medical technicians.

And it is important to remember that during work, many of them live, eat and sleep in dorm style.

“You get people who have an increased number of exposures to individuals at risk and members of the public through their professional activities, and then you place them close to homes with each other for long periods of time,” Robert Furberg told ABC11.

Furberg, a medical researcher for the Triangle Research Institute in Durham said if it is not a prescription for disaster, it is at least a prescription for the spread of SARS-CoV-2.

Prior to joining RTI, Furberg was a firefighter and professional paramedic, and he is still volunteering with a fire department in Orange County.

So he was speaking from the heart when he said, “COVID is the leading cause of death on duty in firefighters in the United States. So the issue is real and has a lot to do with the nature of the job.”

Because of his background, Furberg was the clear choice to come up with a control panel to track COVID-19 infections in firefighters and emergency medical technicians as state officials battled the issue.

“The impact of COVID on fire departments in North Carolina was really poorly understood,” Furberg said.

But now, North Carolina is the first state where government agencies overseeing firefighters and EMTs, the Department of State and State Fire Marshall, can track and map out their infections.

tracking dashboard could also be beneficial for survivors of any fire or EMT to die while on duty from COVID-19, according to Furberg.

“One of our goals is to make sure that deaths on duty are attributed to workplace exposure in order to ensure that family members of that firefighter receive the benefits they deserve,” he said.

Furberg said his efforts were partly driven by the COVID-19 explosion at the Clayton Fire Department in August.

He killed the deputy and even spread outside the fire house.

“There were many members in that fire department who ended up hospitalized, and even the spouses of those members ended up exposed, tested positive and hospitalized,” Furberg noted.

Despite this, Furberg said firefighters are among the public safety workers who are most reluctant about vaccines.

So the tracker will also show vaccination rates allowing state officials to take action on it as well as on outbreaks.

Copyright 2021 WTVD-TV. All rights reserved.



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