As countless Jersey City firefighters test positive for and/or show symptoms of COVID-19, many are slamming JCFD Chief Steven McGill’s crisis leadership – including failure to quarantine personnel, over 100 now on sick leave, and $75,000 wasted on the cleaning of a firehouse.
Unfortunately, after speaking with various sources, it seems that sentiment above is widely shared within the Jersey City Fire Department (JCFD) – which is nearing an “apocalypse” as countless Jersey City firefighters test positive for and/or show symptoms of COVID-19 (coronavirus).
At a March 22, 2020, Jersey City public safety press conference, JCFD Chief Steven McGill joked that “not too many people have been calling in [sick], except for the last two days, but it’s a weekend so that’s expected.”
Despite exaggerated laughter from public officials in attendance, many firefighters didn’t find the joke funny at the time because a JCFD battalion chief was already exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 and eventually tested positive. That battalion chief finished working a shift the previous day at the firehouse located at 355 Newark Avenue and was believed to be in “close contact” with numerous firefighters.
Thankfully, the battalion chief was admitted to a hospital sometime shortly after working their shift and is believed to be recovering now. Yet, in spite of recommendations issued by actual public health experts, none of the firefighters in close contact with the BC were ordered to self-quarantine and some have since tested positive for COVID-19.
Unfortunately, it’s become a policy of McGill’s that all firefighters, regardless of who they’ve been in close contact with, must show up to work until they show symptoms. Additionally, firefighters were supposed to have their temperatures tested at the beginning of their shifts for weeks now, but there’s apparently no thermometers available.
Adding insult to injury, according to a March 25, 2020, email obtained by Real Garden State, McGill spent $75,000 on a deep cleaning of the Newark Ave firehouse, but sources say it was wasted because he sent infected firefighters back in immediately after the job was completed.
In a follow-up email from the 25th, McGill stated that Public Safety Director James Shea said the city no longer has funds to professionally clean firehouses, and that any building which is contaminated will be closed indefinitely. Furthermore, the fire chief claimed “OEM is researching the purchase of spray guns and antiseptic solutions for each firehouse,” and sources say some buildings did receive that equipment/supplies the following day.
Firefighters are now expected to clean their apparatuses, but some say basic supplies have not been provided – like bleach.
Of note, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines “close contact” as: A) being within approximately 6 feet (2 meters) of a COVID-19 case for a prolonged period of time; or B) having direct contact with infectious secretions of a COVID-19 case (e.g., being coughed on). WATCH MCGILL AT 3-22-20 PRESS CONFERENCE BELOW:
At this time, it seems the worst hit firehouse may be at 715 Summit Ave. in the Jersey City Heights – with an entire group possibly testing positive and/or showing symptoms. Also, a captain and firefighter from 255 Kearney Ave. have tested positive and the same situation seems to be unfolding at a Sip Ave. location, yet it’s unclear whether any of the buildings have been closed per McGill’s email.
It should be noted that some testing of Jersey City firefighters for COVID-19 has been done, but firefighters are being instructed to work until positive results come back – further increasing the risk of disease transmission.
It’s believed over 100 firefighters are now out sick, which could put an incredible strain on overtime costs for the JCFD or force entire companies to shut down.
It should also be noted that due to the nature of the job, firefighters are often forced to be in close proximity to each other, but that hasn’t stopped many from slamming McGill’s handling of the crisis – especially when it comes to quarantining personnel who’ve been in contact with those who’ve tested positive and/or exhibited symptoms.
The situation is now believed to be a direct threat to public safety, and some fear there could be devastating consequences in the days and weeks ahead – especially after Molotov cocktails were found in Bayside Park last week (a sign of potential chaos that would be difficult to contain even at full staff).
Of note, the Fulop administration refuses to answer questions and/or provide information to Real Garden State, but this article will be updated if/when they decided to be professional about the situation. UPDATE 3/31/2020: McGill issued a memo confirming firefighters should be working until exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 (READ BELOW).
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UPDATE: Following up from yesterday's story, JCFD Chief Steven McGill issued a memo this morning confirming that firefighters should be working until exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 – even if they were working with someone that tested positive. Additionally, McGill stated that "if you work in a firehouse where a member tested positive but you tested negative, it shows that you properly protected yourself via social distancing and continual cleaning." #JerseyCity #JCFD #JerseyCityFireDepartment #HudsonCounty #NewJersey #GardenState #covid_19 #coronavirus