COVID-19 putting strains on staffing with Valley first responders

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The number of virus cases continues to grow and is impacting first responders

HOWLAND, Ohio (WKBN) – Emergency officials in Trumbull County say the number of positive coronavirus cases in the county is impacting their operations.

Howland Fire Chief James Pantalone is in charge of Unified Incident Command at the Trumbull County Emergency Operations Center. He says as the number of cases continues to grow, they’re now starting to see the virus impact first responders.

“I think we’re sitting right in the middle of the much worse right now. Across the country, on both sides of that equation, police, fire EMS, everybody’s struggling with staffing going into quarantine, overtime budgets are certainly getting hit,” Pantalone said.

All of this happening in a matter of weeks. For example, 21 employees at the 911 Center have tested positive for the virus since October 23.

At the Trumbull County Sheriff’s Office, five deputies and 11 corrections officers have come down with COVID-19, with 13 test results still pending. Most of those positive cases happening since the beginning of the month, and they aren’t the only agencies getting hit.

The Niles Police Department had two officers test positive while two others are still waiting to hear back.

“We are trying to deal with it, stay as protected as we can, but we are experiencing a lot of exposure here in the last two or three weeks,” said Nile Police Capt. John Marshall.

Pantalone says over at his fire department, they’ve spaced out sleeping arrangements and drastically increased their disinfecting workload, using UV lighting in the living quarters and the ambulances. All in an effort to keep firefighters safe.

“We’ve only been in this really big increase for about three weeks, right now, and we’ve got more weeks to go here,” Pantalone said.

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