Share this article

Open for business
Find out the latest updates from local businesses as our region reopens.
print logo

17 Buffalo cops and 16 firefighters test positive for Covid-19

Seventeen Buffalo police officers have tested positive for Covid-19.

So have 16 employees of the Buffalo Fire Department.

Twenty other Buffalo police officers and 40 more firefighters are on "administrative leave" as they self-quarantine.

More than 200 Buffalo residents have tested positive for Covid-19 as of Tuesday afternoon, by far the largest number of any municipality in Erie County, according to court Health Department figures – and it's hitting the city's first responders too.

One firefighter was hospitalized but has since been discharged and one Buffalo police officer remains in an intensive care unit, officials said.

So far, the number of police officers and firefighters out on leave because of the virus is not threatening staffing levels, according to police and fire officials and union leaders.

City officials announced the positive cases among Buffalo firefighters Tuesday – the first time the city had publicly acknowledged the virus had struck the Buffalo Fire Department – after firefighter union officials sent a news release in the morning.

"We just wanted to get some information out," said Vincent Ventresca, the union president. "We thought it was really important."

Buffalo police have been reporting positive cases among their officers since last week. Four Erie County sheriff's deputies, all of whom work in the Holding Center, have also tested positive.

Ventresca asked the public to stay at home as much as possible and to only call 911 if necessary.

"Don’t put extra stresses on the 911 system," he said.

For both departments, the positive cases are now spread throughout districts and stations. There are, however, multiple cases among the police associated with the Ferry-Fillmore District, also known as C District. An entire platoon from that district is out on administrative leave after several positive cases there, police said.

Fire Commissioner William Renaldo said some Fire Department cases appear associated with the training bureau.

As of Tuesday, seven station houses had been identified as places where people who tested positive may have been. Those are all undergoing deep cleanings, Renaldo said.

Also, firefighters are being checked twice per 24-hour shift, said Dr. Joseph Bart, the medical director for the Fire Department. They have their temperature checked at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. and are asked questions about their health, Bart said. If there is any sign of illness, even the sniffles, they're sent home.

Police officers and firefighters who test positive or feel sick go on what's known as "administrative leave" for seven days. Once they have no symptoms for 72 hours, they can go back to work.

"We're being abundantly cautious," Renaldo said.

The city's first responders continue to respond to 911 calls, although in new and socially distant ways.

For the past couple of weeks, police officers are "having people come outside of their homes to speak to officers, utilizing phones to take some basic reports," said Buffalo Police Capt. Jeff Rinaldo.

Firefighters and EMTs are also taking extra precautions.

911 call takers try to screen callers for possible signs of Covid-19, asking them whether they have a fever or had contact with someone who has tested positive.

Those calls are dispatched with the code word "Protocol 36." When responding to those cases, firefighters and EMTs know to try to stay six feet away and to put on protective gear including masks and gloves.

Overall, crime has gone down in the city. However, shootings still occur. There were three homicides in three days last week in Buffalo.

Police responded Tuesday afternoon to another shooting on Niagara Street. Police raced to the scene as firefighters were seen performing CPR on the victim.

Fires still rage. Early Monday morning, firefighters rescued a 15-year-old from a fire at a house on Woodlawn Avenue, carrying him down from a second-story room. Before dawn on Tuesday, a two-alarm fire ripped through a garage and house on Riley Street.

Late Tuesday morning, another fire was reported at a house on South Ogden Street.

Luckily, this one was a minor one, causing about $500 in damage.

Chris Buettner stood outside his front door after the firefighters had left.

"They were right on top of it," he said of the engine company that had come to his aid. "You couldn't ask for a better crew of guys."

Story topics: /

There are no comments - be the first to comment