Officials say safer PPE use leads to drop in COVID-19 cases among local front-line workers

(WSVN) - Coronavirus cases are on the rise in South Florida, but hospital workers and medical first responders are seeing a decrease in how many of them are getting sick. 7’s Brian Entin investigates why.

When the COVID-19 pandemic started, Jackson Memorial Hospital emergency room doctor Dave Woolsey slept in his guest cottage. He feared bringing the virus home and infecting his family.

Two months later, he has moved back into his house.

Dr. Dave Woolsey, Jackson Health System: “Once we all started wearing the gear for every patient, we have been able to provide good care and be really close to a lot of COVID patients and, thank God, for the most part, very few of us have been getting sick. That has given us more confidence that stuff works.”

Dr. Woolsey says medical personnel have perfected how they put the personal protective equipment on and safely take it off. It has led to fewer healthcare workers getting sick at Jackson.

It’s the same for South Florida first responders.

At one point, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue had more than 100 firefighters out because of COVID. That number is now just 30.

Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue has just one COVID-positive employee, and Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue is also seeing record low numbers.

Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Stephen Gollan: “Although we are seeing as a whole an uptick in the number of cases, here at Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue we have only had only one individual who has tested positive for COVID-19, and that’s out of 485 personnel. We attribute that to our high policies and procedures that were put in place.”

Firefighters in Miami-Dade and Broward wear PPE for every single call, regardless of whether they know if it is COVID -related.

Battalion Chief Stephen Gollan: “A lot of what we found was simple basic hygiene-type maneuvers, making sure that masks were being worn, filtering the calls so that we knew what we were going into, and deconning the back of the trucks or thoroughly cleaning the back of the trucks.”

While the number of COVID-19 cases in South Florida rise, healthcare professionals are proof that taking precautions works.

Now they just hope the public will keep their guard up.

Dr. Dave Woolsey: “It’s natural. People got tired of being cooped up. People got tired of losing their normal life routine, and the tendency is to just go right back to the way we used to do things, and we really need to get used to the idea that there is a new normal.”

A new normal that medical professionals predict they’ll be dealing with at least until the end of the year.

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