Miami Beach Fire Rescue unit created to respond to calls involving suspected COVID-19 patients

MIAMI BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - A Miami Beach Fire Rescue crew will be suiting up to prepare for any coronavirus call, and the department has made sure those on the front lines are protected.

The fire department showed its COVID-19 unit to 7News cameras on Wednesday. The unit includes firefighter-paramedics who will be exclusively dedicated to responding to 911 calls that involve suspected COVID-19 patients.

“Whenever a call meets the criteria for us, we practice social distancing,” Miami Beach firefighter Derek Lewis said. “When we get there, we’ll have the patient meet us at the door, which is door triage, and we won’t get as close up and personal as we normally would.”

For the safety of the first responders, they now deploy fully suited up in a total bodysuit, including a full face mask, gloves, covers over the boots and every zipper and their wrists and ankles are all taped tightly, leaving no skin exposed.

The unit is based at Mount Sinai Hospital in Miami Beach.

Once the COVID-19 unit gets the call, they suit up and drive directly to the patient’s house or apartment. The unit heads back to the hospital to a special quarantine room if the paramedics conclude the call is an emergency that warrants going to the hospital.

Before and after every call, the inside of the ambulance is thoroughly disinfected and sanitized, including every piece of medical equipment the team uses to save lives.

“We have a group of men and women that understand they signed up to help others, and when we sign up to help others, there are no ‘except for,’ and so we are in the middle of a tremendous challenge,” Miami Beach Fire Chief Virgil Fernandez said.

For the first responders, their job is very personal and involves great sacrifice.

“The first thing that crossed my mind was ‘I want to be part of that team,’ but I knew, at the end of the day, I needed to run it through the wife, because the wife, it’s going to affect her, and it’s going to affect the kids,” Miami Beach firefighter Marcio Bueno said. “I have three kids at home. I have a 10-year-old, a 2-year-old and a newborn, so she was a little apprehensive at first for me wanting to volunteer because she was like, ‘What if you get the COVID, and you bring it home to the kids, and now we have sick kids?'”

Fire officials said the unit is averaging around eight suspected COVID-19 calls per day.

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