EVERETT, WA – The Everett Fire Department (EFD), with support from the Everett Firefighters, IAFF Local 46, is partnering with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center to study the occurrence of COVID-19 antibodies amongst EFD employees. This study is part of a larger project that is specifically designed to study the occurrence of COVID-19 antibodies in the first responder community.
Forty-eight firefighters from the department, most of whom worked two or more shifts at Fire Station 5 between the dates of February 1 and March 23, 2020, were invited to voluntarily participate in this study. Fire Station 5 was picked due to the significant numbers of COVID-19 positive patients that were evaluated by crews from this station during the targeted study period.
Starting this week, scientists from Fred Hutchinson are in Everett at Fire Station 5 to kick off this joint research project. There are tents set up in the front parking area so that potentially infected individuals are not entering the station. It is important to state, there is no threat to the community or the firefighters as all precautions and protocols are being followed to ensure the safety for all.
In general, participation in this study is completely voluntary for the firefighters. The Everett Fire Department is not sharing any identifiable information of the firefighters with Fred Hutchinson other than the total number of shifts a firefighter worked at Fire Station 5 within the noted time frame, and the total number of incidents a firefighter arrived on scene with a patient who was confirmed to be a COVID-19 positive patient (regardless if contact was made or not). This information is provided to Fred Hutchinson by assigning a randomly generated number that can not be linked to identifying anyone. Additionally, the Everett Fire Department administration will not receive any information about who did or did not participate in the study but will receive the aggregate results of the testing. “The knowledge of whether or not we’ve had any undetected cases amongst our responders who have contacted the highest numbers of COVID-19 patients will enable us to evaluate the success of our efforts to protect our personnel, while still delivering the high level of care that our residents expect and deserve,” said Assistant Chief Rich Llewellyn.
Testing includes a nasal swab to check for active COVID-19 infection, and a blood draw to test for antibodies unless they already have a previously documented positive test result, then just the blood draw. Positive results from the nasal swab test for active infection will be shared with the Snohomish County Health District, which is a legal requirement. Proper protocol within the fire department will be followed for those who test positive with a current infection of COVID-19. Firefighters who test positive for antibodies will be asked to provide additional blood draws in the future to study the persistence of antibodies in the bloodstream.
To learn more about this study, visit Fred Hutchinson’s Seattle COVID Studies webpage (https://bit.ly/3iL6oZG).