WEST BEND — Three West Bend firefighters tested positive for COVID-19, according to their fire chief.
Chief Gerald Kudek said it started at the beginning of April when one firefighter experiencing symptoms tested positive. In total, six firefighters were tested, three were positive for COVID-19, and the remaining three were negative.
"Once they develop symptoms, they're immediately put on leave," said Chief Kudek.
The fire chief assumes the firefighters contracted the virus while on the job, judging by the nature of their work.
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Kudek says per the CDC leave for essential workers is seven days, three of those have to be symptom-free.
It puts a strain on the 40 person department since they have to cover shifts with overtime, but the strain goes beyond that element.
"Just the stress itself of this job, dealing with all of the possible infections that are out there that takes its toll on our members as well," said Chief Kudek.
Since the positive cases took hold, personnel started wearing masks in the firehouse. Before this, they only wore extra personal protective equipment or PPE on calls.
The department was already doing extra cleaning of the firehouses, ambulances, and fire trucks.
West Bend's acting mayor Steve Hoogester says he is not aware of any other first responders who tested positive for COVID-19. Hoogester called on the community to their part in combating the spread of the virus.
"We have to work together, listen to the experts are telling us. If they tell you to stay home, stay home. If they tell you not to go out and get in groups of people, don't do it. I mean, you don't know who's got this," said Hoogester.
The firefighters union says they are working with the fire chief to ensure members' safety.
Chief Kudek says right now they have a sufficient supply of PPE, but it is difficult not knowing how long the pandemic will last.