Lake Oswego Fire personnel train to test for COVID-19
When members of the Lake Oswego Fire Department had a chance to step up and be leaders in the community, they didn't say no.
The fire department now has 11 individuals trained to administer COVID-19 testing in Clackamas County, if needed.
"(The) Clackamas County Public Health director personally reached out and said, 'We need your help.' It would be a shame for us to turn our backs and say 'No,'" said LOFD Battalion Chief Scott Vachter. "We're here to help."
LOFD would serve as another trusted helping hand if Clackamas County needed additional personnel to administer testing.
LOFD Chief Don Johnson said the department would primarily help with testing at adult care facilities or businesses that otherwise would be shut down if they didn't receive testing for employees immediately.
"It's the community need, typically in a work setting of some sort," Johnson said.
The Clackamas County Public Health Department contracted with Lake Oswego Fire, Oregon Health and Sciences University and are "negotiating a contract with Neighborhood Health to aid with testing," said Kimberly Dinwiddie, public information officer and policy liaison at Clackamas County. "Our public health staff are focused on case investigations and contact tracing. We need additional assistance to administer testing. The help of these organizations will support us in providing testing services at workplaces such as long-term care facilities and farms."
A few LOFD employees were trained recently and deployed once to Milwaukie for testing. Johnson said a three-person team was sent over to help test four or five people. The testing included sticking a nose dart up someone's nostril and then packaging the swabs for testing. The results were then sent to the county.
"We don't get the results," Johnson said. "We're just there to facilitate the test. It's a unique program."
An additional seven or eight people were scheduled for training Thursday, Sept. 2, to provide a deeper pool of folks who could administer tests.
"Until COVID's over, it's a unique service that the paramedics can provide," said Johnson, adding that people would typically be called to administer tests on their day off.
Vachter said an important but easily overlooked aspect of the project is the fact that the city trusts LOFD personnel to perform the task and gives them their full support for the betterment of the community.
"I think the important thing about it is that Lake Oswego Fire — being basically public service, emergency services and that we're providing that for our community — it's important for us to branch out," Vachter said. "It's about responding to the needs of the community."
Vachter said he's not worried about LOFD personnel being exposed to COVID-19 when administering tests because of the personal protective and respiratory equipment they use.
He said he's found that responders aren't contracting the illness on the job for the most part; it's when they go home and aren't wearing their protective gear.
Ultimately, Vachter said combatting the pandemic comes down to working together.
"We all need each other's help and background and experiences through this or anything else," he said. "It's about all of us coming together in a larger group to continue to move forward and help each other."
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